The police have dealt effectively with child pornography cases, involving international gangs, Chief Inspector tells CNA

The Cyprus Police, working in cooperation with police forces and other agencies abroad, have dealt effectively with cases of child pornography, Head of the Cyprus Police Office for Combating Cyber Crime and the Digital Forensic Lab, Chief Inspector, Andreas Anastasiades has told the Cyprus News Agency.

This, he explained, concerned both perpetrators and victims of international criminal gangs involved in child pornography who have been located in Cyprus.

There is quite a serious problem in Cyprus and an increasing trend in cases of child pornography over the past few years. This does not mean that incidents have increased suddenly. There have always been such incidents and they will continue to happen, Anastasiades said in an interview with CNA, on the occasion of the third international police conference, hosted by the Cyprus Police, on Cybercrime Trends and Threats: European and International Dimensions on the 11th and 12th of June in Nicosia.

Invited to say which kind of cybercrimes his Office mainly deals with, Anastasiades said that most cases in Cyprus are related to sexual exploitation and abuse of children through the internet as well as attacks on information systems.

According to statistical data, since the beginning of this year and by May 31, a total of 126 cybercrime cases have been filed after complaints made to the police, of which 65 concern child pornography and 16 hacking. The total number of cases in 2017 were 305, out of which 130 concerned child pornography and 58 hacking. In 2016 there were 310 cases, of which 126 concerned child pornography and 65 hacking. In 2015 the total number of cases was 257, with those related to child pornography reaching 154 and hacking 33.

Replying to a question about the problem of child pornography, Anastasiades noted that on the basis of a study conducted by Europol the correct term for this offense is sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of children. He added that it does not matter if the victim is in Cyprus or abroad. The message we want to convey is that people need to know that anyone who has such material at his disposal or circulates this kind of material or invites a child to join him in pornography, that persons is abusing a child and turns him into his victim, irrespective of which country this child lives in, he pointed out.

In the past several years, he said, the Police have been cooperating with many organizations and institutions both at the European and international level, and as a result more comprehensive information arrives at police offices.

Replying to questions, he said perpetrators and victims of international criminal gangs of child pornography have been located in Cyprus, noting that all incidents have been addressed in cooperation with other countries, with very good results.

As regards attacks against information systems, Anastasiades said that most cases concern the encryption of information systems and ransomware, Ddos attacks and phishing.

Child pornography and hacking cases are steadily increasing, he noted, adding that there have also been cases in which his Office is informed that one internet user has expressed intention to commit suicide on the internet, noting that these users were immediately located and offered support.

As regards crimes on social media, Anastasiades said that the use of social media is continuously increasing in Cyprus by users of all ages and Cyprus is among the first countries, in proportion to its population, as regards the use of social media within the EU.

Internet users, when it comes to social media, are exposed to risks, he said, noting older people – 55 years old – who are internet and computer illiterate are often victims of fraud of various forms via the internet, as sextortion and phishing.

Moreover, he said that internet users aged 11-14 are more vulnerable to risks, including becoming victims of sexual abuse. We often come across phenomena such as uploading photos of naked minors by internet users who act naively and do so without even being asked, he added and explained that the law provides for ways to address cases of cybercrime in which minors may be involved.

Anastasiades also said that internet users of all ages can be victims of data encryption and ransomware, something which shows that computer users in Cyprus are not careful.

Asked about hacking of accounts or websites in Cyprus, he said that the state is not currently facing any serious incidents of cyberattacks, but there are incidents of ransomware, adding that his Office is in close cooperation with all competent authorities to be ready to address any possible cyberattacks against important services of the Republic of Cyprus.

Replying to another question, Anastasiades said all EU member states are concerned with the fact that people and businesses do not always report cases of cybercrime for fear of being exposed.

Our primary objective is to protect the individuals or businesses that fall victim to cybercrime. I can assure you that no information relating to such cases is leaked, he told CNA.

Furthermore, he noted that a platform through which complaints can be filed for such offences has been set up and is accessible through the Cyprus Police website and a smart phone application.

Asked about the penalties imposed by the courts for cybercrimes, Anastasiades said that in the past penalties were not effective and in certain serious cases, working in cooperation with the Law Office of the Republic, they appealed against court decisions and penalties increased, especially as regards child pornography cases.

Replying to another question, Anastasiades underlined the high standard of work of the Cyprus Police Office for Combating Cyber Crime and the Digital Forensic Lab in terms of their staff and equipment, noting at the same time that the Office needs more staff to be able to respond to increased needs. He also noted that the Police are in touch, on a daily basis, with all relevant international organizations and other countries.

There are of course inefficiencies in managing the increased volume of data and the automated collection of information and its analysis, but we are making every effort to address them, he added.

Asked about the importance of the international police conference on Cyber Crime, Anastasiades said that, recognizing the new order of things and the rapid increase in cybercrime, the Police are organizing this third international conference which aims at highlighting the trends and threats of cybercrime and proposing solutions at the technical and legal level.

Source: Cyprus News Agency