Some of the greatest beneficiaries of the information technology revolution have been criminals. Computers allow them to commit new kinds of crimes, to organise and perpetrate traditional offences faster and more efficiently than ever, and to do so with an unprecedented degree of anonymity. That is the bad news. But as delegates to the Second Asia Cyber Crime Summit at the University of Hong Kong have heard, progress is being made in the fight against computer-assisted criminality. 'The good news is keeping abreast, or even outpacing, the bad news,' said Peter Grabowsky, an expert in cyber crime from the Australian National University in Canberra. 'Governments are improving their capacity to deal with these problems, both of their own motion and in co-operation with each other ... and there have been tremendous strides in the private sector in terms of developing legal as well as technological solutions to combat some of these problems.' But in Hong Kong, the number of computer crimes surged to 451 cases in the first three quarters of this year, compared with 272 cases in the whole of last year. The detection rate also dropped, from 21 to 12 per cent this year, the Security Bureau said. Of the 451 cases recorded, 19 were serious ones, with 14 of these detected. Cyber crime falls into three broad categories: crimes committed against machines, such as disseminating viruses or hacking; traditional crimes, including child pornography or fraud, committed via a computer; and traditional crimes in which a computer is used incidentally. The fact that cyber crime had reached into almost every area of policing posed a major challenge to those working to combat it, Slawomir Redo of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said.