The number of malicious attacks on computers is rising rapidly, the police chief warned yesterday, shortly after two arrests in a high-profile case.
Commissioner of Police Andy Tsang Wai-hung told a Tsuen Wan District Council meeting there was only one hacking case in 2010 but 11 last year. Already this year there had been more than 10 cases. On Saturday, two people were arrested in connection with the hacking on Friday of computers being used for a mock chief executive election.
Their target was an online election organised by the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme, which was extended to Saturday because of disruption caused by the hacking. The suspects, both Hongkongers and aged 17 and 28, have been released on bail.
Most computer attacks in Hong Kong target financial organisations, and some involve demands for financial payment, Tsang said.
It was uncommon for hackers to attack an online polling system, said Tsang, but he had observed a change in the 'nature of hacking'.
'Before, most hackers just wanted to show off their skills, but now we see more illegal activity online,' he said. 'Some involve threats and demands from outside Hong Kong.'
The police investigation of the case would involve examining computers belonging to both the suspects and the university.
A police team including 70 specialists is working on technology crime, and about 200 officers have received at least some training in that field, Tsang said. The force will set up a centre to improve network safety this year.
Phone scams are also on the rise, Tsang said. The police received 320 reports of phone scams in January and February, a 72 per cent increase from the same period last year.
Most calls were from the mainland, and police had arrested three people holding mainland travel documents in recent months, he said. Phone scams were successful less than 30 per cent of the time, he said.
After the meeting, Tsang defended the use of pepper spray against election day protesters on Sunday, saying they were trying to force their way into Convention and Exhibition Centre, where the chief executive election was held.
Police confirmed on Sunday that, before using the pepper spray, officers warned protesters in two cases but not in a third instance.
Tsang said police had received notification from organisers of a protest march against the election system scheduled for Sunday.
Cyber crime cost the UK economy approximately this much a year, according to the British government