Members of international child pornography rings have been identified in Cyprus along with the victims of such groups, Head of the Electronic Crime Prevention Office and Police Electronic Data Laboratory Chief Inspector Andreas Anastasiades said on Friday.
In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency ahead of an international conference on cybercrime next week organised by the Cyprus police, Anastasiades said that all these incidents were dealt with in cooperation with other countries with very good results.
“The problem in Cyprus is quite serious and there is an increasing trend in recent years. It does not mean, however, that the cases suddenly increased. Cases have always existed and will continue to exist,” Anastasiades said.
The most common types of offenses investigated by the police cybercrime office, he said, concern online child sexual exploitation and abuse and attacks on information systems.
Based on statistics, from the beginning of this year to May31, of the 126 cases reported to the electronic crime prevention office, 65 concern cases of child pornography and the rest hacking. In 2017, a305 cases were reported to the unit of which 130 concerned child pornography. In 2015, more than half of the 257 cases reported concerned child pornography.
Anastasiades pointed out that it does not matter if the victim is in Cyprus or abroad, and that what must be passed on to the public is that anyone who owns or disseminates such material is abusing or victimising a child in whatever country the child is in.
“In recent years, the police have developed partnerships with various organisations and bodies at both European and international level, thus receiving more and more comprehensive information on new incidents,” he said.
In cases when members or even victims of international child pornography rings have been identified in Cyprus, he said, “all incidents have been dealt with in cooperation with other countries with very good results.”
Generally, he said, there is a steady increase in child pornography cases, but also in hacking. There were also incidences where his unit had been informed of an internet user who had declared he would commit suicide on the internet, pointing out that in all cases users were immediately identified and received support.
With regard to attacks on information systems, Anastasiades said that most incidents are related to ransomware, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, and phishing.
As to complaints about social networking offenses, he said that the use of social media tools is constantly increasing by users of all ages and Cyprus, in proportion to its population, is ranked among one of the top countries for the use of social media within the EU.
“When using these networks, internet users face different problems and risks. Older internet users, over 55, who have not received any training in using the internet and computers regularly fall victim to online fraud in various forms, such as sextortion and phishing,” he said.
Minors aged between 11 and 14 of both sexes are more vulnerable as victims of child sexual exploitation over the internet. “We often find phenomena such as the proliferation of naked pictures of minors with great ease,” he said, adding that there is a certain way of handling all cases of juvenile suspects through police provisions and legislation.
“We also find that internet users of all ages may become victims of data encryption and money-demanding threats with great ease, indicating that computer users in Cyprus are not careful,” he said.
On the extent of hacking of accounts or websites in Cyprus, Anastasiades said that as a country, “we are not facing particularly serious cyber-attacks at this stage, but we are dealing with incidents involving ransomware”.
Anastasiades also said that reluctance on behalf of victims to report cybercrime is not uncommon in Cyprus but also all the EU Member States.
“There is a fear of exposure of the person or business. I want to assure that the primary purpose of the office is to protect the victims or the companies and in no case will any […] complaint be leaked,” he said.
Anastasiades said that that co-operation with all international organisations and other countries is daily.
“After all, the fight against cybercrime cannot be successful and effective without international cooperation, since the internet has no borders.”
He also said that members of the public may report child pornography, racism, xenophobia, internet scams and hacking through www.police.gov.cy and the police application for smart phones.