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China has experienced a sharp rise in cybercrime and is seeing a new breed of Internet criminals as illegal sales of weapons and porn flourish online, a senior security official has said.
Gu Jianguo, director of network protection for the Ministry of Public Security, said cases of cybercrime have increased by an average of 30 percent each year since 2008.
Gu said authorities are seeing a new kind of criminal behavior in cyberspace, with an increase in the online sale of firearms and ammunition, wiretapping devices and fake professional certificates. Online gambling and pornography distribution are also on the rise.
"Traditional online crime, such as hackers stealing personal data, has gradually become less common," Gu said.
He said loopholes in supervision, low risks, big gains and hidden transaction channels were to blame for the increase in serious cybercrime.
"Crooks tend to consider the Internet as a safe and convenient haven where they can target victims," Gu said.
"Online crime, ranging from hackers invading government websites to the sale of illegal weapons, threatens social stability and information security," he said.
In May, authorities launched a campaign specifically targeting cybercrime.
The ministry said by the end of June police nationwide had uncovered 600 online criminal gangs, destroyed 500 illegal firearms factories that were selling their wares over the Internet and detained 10,000 suspects.
Police focusing on cybercrime removed 3.2 million pieces of illegal and harmful information from the Internet.
Between March and June, police investigated 5,600 cybercrime cases and cut 5,000 channels of communication such as e-mails and instant messenger accounts, being used by suspected criminals.
Police also investigated 2,600 public order violations, and issued administrative punishments to 3,000 people.
In the past two months, police across China uncovered 62 forums where firearms, explosives or pornography were being advertised for sale, including some run by popular websites such as chinanews.com and tianya.cn. Sites were either closed or ordered to make improvements within three months.
Gu said the cybercrime unit has worked together with other police units including criminal investigation, drug enforcement, economic crime and public security management units, to form a unified force.
Wang Xiaoyang, a senior police officer in network security and protection, said his team focuses on shutting down the illegal operators that provide criminals with their Internet connection.
"To fight cybercrime, authorities focused on illegal Internet service operators, which are believed to be the force behind many illegal websites," Wang said.
Gu conceded that authorities face challenges in tackling China's rampant cybercrime, "Some telecom operators simply don't check the legal qualifications of websites they host," Gu said.
According to the ministry, 83.5 percent of the illegal websites discovered were unregistered or falsely registered.
Gu said police will continue to crack down on online crime, and intensify the efforts to uncover illegal service units.
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