China / Society

Call for better police training as Web crime rises

By Cao Yin (China Daily) Updated: 2012-09-14 02:13

Experts have urged police nationwide to give officers more training and better equipment to combat the growing threat of online crime, as Beijing released the results of its six-month computer crime crackdown.

The capital's public security bureau said more than 4,000 cases of Internet crime were investigated between January and June this year.

During the campaign the authority removed roughly 360,000 pieces of illegal information from the Web including those from sites promoting pyramid schemes, pornography and gambling, and detained more than 5,000 suspects.

"All departments, including those that cover criminal investigation, online security and drug control, were ordered to launch joint actions," said Zi Xiangdong, an official with the Beijing Public Security Bureau's news office.

However, experts in online security said the crackdown is just the tip of the iceberg, and have called for more Web-savvy officers and better channels for authorities in different provinces to share information.

"The problem has become increasingly serious as the Internet has developed, especially online fraud and theft," said Meng Zhuo, a computer engineer responsible for online security at an NGO in Beijing.

"Criminals now frequently make fake websites that are copies of those run by well-known Web companies with the aim of cheating people. Often, they target online shopping websites, such as Taobao."

Liu Honghui, a Beijing lawyer who specializes in online crime, said he feels many frontline police officers, particularly in poorer areas, lack even a basic knowledge of the Internet.

"Big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai have specialists who are masters of advanced technology and cooperate with colleagues in other departments to investigate big cases, but their numbers are far from enough," said the former police officer who used to work in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province.

He suggested all police, irrespective of age, rank or location, be given basic Web training, and as many as possible be helped to become familiar with advanced computer technology.

Although some websites have introduced real-name registration systems, such as dating services and online stores, crooks are still finding loopholes, he warned.

"Also, many online crimes require cross-provincial cooperation to solve. If a con artist in Beijing can swindle a man in Heilongjiang, the police in both areas need to connect quickly," he said, adding that there needs to be clear and efficient communication channels.

On May 30, Beijing police received reports of a prostitution ring in the northern Tiantongyuan community that was organizing a gang to recruit women in Jilin province via QQ, an instant messaging service, and cell phone messages.

A police investigation found the gang had three ringleaders and three hiding places in the community. On June 7, the police arrested the three key members of the gang and 15 people suspected of participating in prostitution in Beijing, while another organizer was captured in Jilin.

In February, the police also raided a private club in the capital's Haidian district that advertised sexual services online. Officers detained 27 suspects.

Dai Peng, director of the criminal investigation department at the Chinese People's Public Security University, said it is often the case that online criminals do not meet each other unless they are detained.

"They will usually choose small websites with management loopholes and without real-name identification to commit crimes, as it allows them to stay off the police radar," he said.

Most public security bureaus have training in online investigation skills for all staff members, in the hope everyone will be able to trace criminals online and analyze their future actions quickly, Dai said.

However, he acknowledged that new technology "will be hard for long-serving police officers to learn, while stations in poor areas may not have enough money to support the training".

Meng, the computer engineer, agreed.

"Basic computer skills are easy to learn, but the most important method to handle online crime lies in good analysis of clues, which requires police or professionals with enough experience and capability to find the clues behind the information online," he said.

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