Regional experts meet to support UNODC global cybercrime study

Bangkok (Thailand), 17 May 2012
- In less than two decades, the Internet has become essential to billions around the world. However, its rapid expansion has far exceeded the international community's ability to manage cyberspace. This has led to many abuses. The most dangerous of these is cybercrime - which some estimate has a the total market value in excess of the illicit drug economy, and an increasing negative impact, especially in Asia.

"There are almost 900 million internet users in South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific, comprising about 25 per cent of our region's total population," said Mr. Gary Lewis, UNODC Regional Representative for East Asia and the Pacific. "That number will grow in line with our region's rapid economic growth. This risks, in turn, greater numbers falling victim to cybercrime."

Practitioners from eleven countries in South and South-East Asia met recently in Bangkok, Thailand at a workshop organized by UNODC Vienna and the UNODC Regional Centre for East Asia and the Pacific to contribute to an upcoming UNODC global study on cybercrime. They also identified national strengths, challenges and needs to effectively prevent and combat cybercrime in the region.

The participants - from Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam - were chosen by their governments due to their extensive knowledge and experience in cybercrime issues. They represented a range of government institutions, including prosecution authorities and law enforcement, as well as Ministries of Foreign Affairs.

The comprehensive study on cybercrime is part of UNODC's global programme of technical assistance to developing countries to prevent and combat cybercrime. Due out in 2013, the study will present a global picture of trends, threats, and current and proposed state and private-sector responses to cybercrime, including prevention and awareness raising, criminal justice actions and international cooperation. Mandated by UN General Assembly resolution 65/230, the UNODC study aims to assist Member States strengthen existing national and international legal responses to cybercrime.

Cybercrime describes a wide range of offences. These include offences against computer data and systems such as hacking, computer-related forgery and fraud like phishing, as well as content offences such as disseminating online child sexual abuse material, and copyright offences, including the dissemination of pirated content.

"The essential elements of a response first include knowing the problem, establishing norms and standards, building technical ability and finally cooperating across borders," said Gary Lewis, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Representative for East Asia and the Pacific.

The workshop began with participants completing a questionnaire to provide detailed national information for the cybercrime study.

"The questionnaire to which participants will contribute aims to provide a global snapshot of the problem of cybercrime and the response to it," Mr. Lewis noted. "Only armed with such information can the international community develop a coherent and effective response to this global challenge and that is why your presence in this workshop is so valuable. Countering cybercrime committed by transnational organized criminal groups requires a network to defeat a network."

An exchange of country experience on challenges and good practices to prevent and combat cybercrime followed, with many participants highlighting the importance of training and capacity building and the need for technical support.

"The workshop has been particularly fruitful and constructive as it contributed to a piece of global research that will certainly benefit the cybercrime agenda at an international level," said Ms. Gillian Murray, UNODC Senior Focal Point for Cybercrime.

"The workshop has helped us to collect information required to complete the questionnaire for the study. More than that, though, it has enabled us to become a group of friends for sharing development and progress in cybercrime related issues," said Mr. Kailash Prasad Neupane, Deputy Director of Nepal Telecommunications Authority, who also attended last year's Asia-Pacific Regional Workshop on Fighting Cybercrime, co-organized by UNODC Regional Centre for East Asia and the Pacific and International Telecommunication Union (Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific) in Seoul.

UNODC, the guardian of the UN Transnational Organized Crime Convention, possesses additional mandates to fight cybercrime through various UN General Assembly and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations and Crime Commission resolutions.

In addition to the comprehensive study on cybercrime, UNODC has developed a global programme of technical assistance to developing countries to prevent and combat cybercrime. Assistance focuses on development of training programs for law enforcement personnel, prosecutors and judiciary on cybercrime investigative techniques, cybercrime prevention activities and awareness raising, enhanced national, regional and international cooperation to address cybercrime, as well as national data collection, research and analysis on the links between organized crime and cybercrime. Technical assistance activities are based on Member state needs, including those identified through the information collection process for the comprehensive study.