The government's internet security arm is planning to boost staff numbers by 50 per cent in the wake of a rising number of cyber attacks targeting the city last year. The Computer Emergency Response Team Co-ordination Centre - which handles Web security incidents in Hong Kong - wants to play a bigger role in the fight against cyber attacks, including setting up a laboratory to analyse trends and stepping up measures to find local websites that have been compromised. Centre manager Roy Ko Wai-tak said yesterday it had seen organised cyber attacks last year that specifically targeted the city's internet users and the business sector. A check of the city's 180,000 sites under the .hk suffix found 251 cases of defacement last year, up from 192 in 2008. Another 182 websites were found to have had malicious code inserted, up nearly 60 per cent from 114 in 2008. The two types of breach comprised 45 per cent of the 961 security incidents reported last year. Defacement is a tactic employed by cyber criminals who embed viral scripts into a legitimate website. The scripts are triggered when a viewer's mouse pointer moves over the targeted area of the website, which on the screen would be the size of a pixel. The scripts, difficult for the website provider to detect, direct viewers to malicious sites where viruses or spyware can be downloaded onto their computers. Ko also cited attacks that targeted local e-banking clients, with at least three, from two banks, losing almost HK$300,000 from unauthorised online transactions. The cases had prompted the Monetary Authority to warn banks to step up online banking security. 'It is a race without a finishing line,' Ko said. 'With more attacks designed to target the city's internet users, we should start studying the trends and patterns ahead of mass outbreaks.' Ko anticipated more attacks would emerge this year targeting popular online platforms, such as search engines and social networking sites like Facebook. New developments in cloud computing, in which more data would be saved in servers, and the adoption of Microsoft's new operating system, Windows 7, might also bring new threats. Ko said the centre was planning to recruit four more internet security experts to its seven-strong team, while a laboratory would be set up to analyse trends and mount swift responses to the cyber risks. It would also start patrolling local websites under other suffixes, such as .com and .net, which Ko said would far exceed the number of .hk sites. Centre staff would meet with the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer this month to discuss its plans. The centre, established a decade ago, was given funding of about HK$7 million for the current financial year.