Customs and Excise Department sets up new cybercrime squad

Unit learns criminal techniques to combat surge in illegal activity online since last year

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 August, 2013, 4:58am

A new Customs and Excise team has been set up to combat a sharp rise in illegal activity in cyberspace.

The Electronic Crime Investigation Centre (ECIC) researches and develops investigative capabilities so that it can handle customs-related crimes committed by using new technologies before those crimes become a serious problem in society.

The 17-strong squad is investigating how electronic crimes are committed, how to investigate such illegal activity and how to collect evidence.

To stay ahead of crooks, officers have to find out how to use new technologies for illegal transactions and hide evidence. "The ECIC predicts the modes and types of electronic crimes that will happen in the future, then researches and develops suitable investigation methods and directions to tackle such crimes, targeting specific characteristics of various crimes," said Dr Michael Kwan Yuk-kwan, a superintendent in the Intellectual Property Investigation (Operations) Group at the Customs and Excise Department.

"The newest technology - cloud platforms - is also an area of interest to the ECIC, especially when people illegally share movies and songs online," the superintendent said.

The latest figures on electronic crime up to July show 92 cases, more than 40 per cent higher than the 65 cases recorded for the whole of last year. About 80 of this year's cases involved sales of counterfeit items at online auction sites. Last year, there were only 52 such cases.

The ECIC is currently researching and developing investigative capabilities in three major types of crimes, namely internet services, telecommunications devices and hardware and storage media.

The ECIC, set up with initial funding of HK$4 million, is staffed by officers with experience in investigating electronic crimes and who have detailed knowledge of computer investigation and verification.

The team is working closely with local, mainland and overseas law enforcement agencies, the information technology industry and academics.