Police are going to set up a special operations unit that will involve ‘web constables’ able to monitor the internet in real time, police chief Zacharias Chrysostomou said on Monday.
Chrysostomou was addressing the opening of the two-day conference in Nicosia on ‘Cybercrime – Trends and Threats’ across Europe.
The conference is being attended by 241 people, 43 of whom are from abroad and represent 12 international and European organisations and 14 law enforcement authorities including Europol, Interpol, Frontex and the FBI. Around 20 foreign embassy representatives are also involved, along with academics and specialist researchers in cybercrime.
In his address, Chrysostomou said police plan to set up a special operations unit that will focus on the fight against organised crime, terrorism and cybercrime.
“Cyprus police are constantly seeking ways to further improve prevention and suppress cybercrime,” he added.
“In the near future, the Office for Combating Cybercrime, being under the Special Operations Unit, will receive even more resources and as a result of which, will be more effective in investigating all sorts of cybercrime, as well as in policing in real time the web, with the assignment of web-constables.” Chrysostomou said that electronic crime costs nearly $600 billion a year to the global economy and quoted figures saying cybercrime today affects two out of three internet users.
In his address, Justice Minister Ionas NIcolaou revealed that almost 1,000 cybercrimes were reported through the police online platform in 2017, and with training and best practices now being applied within the force, a growing number were being handled every year, especially concerning child pornography, Nicolaou said.
Out of these online complaints, police investigated 130 cases, compared with only 23 in 2013, he said.
Nicolaou said that in order to safeguard the internet without making it government-controlled, Cyprus was working within its Cybersecurity Strategy that includes immediate response to incidents along with efficient public and private cooperation.
“The government has set priority areas for cybercrime prevention and reduction through concrete actions that enhance reporting by the public,” he said.
Nicolaou said that in 2016, Cyprus was evaluated by the EU “with very positive results” for existing structures, staff and available equipment.
Attorney-general Costas Clerides said in his address that the introduction of strict legal provisions, although an indispensable tool in the fight against cybercrime, were not in themselves sufficient and that it was important to provide the tools to police to be able to fully investigate such cases.
“It should not be possible for criminals to be always a step ahead. In the same way that evolving technology leaves gaps and windows open for exploitation by criminals, technology also provides the means to supress such phenomena,” he said.