Cyber-crime cops beat back online gangs

Cyber-crime cops beat back online gangs

New unit bolsters police capacity to enforce Thai laws on the internet

Pol Lt Gen Kornchai Klayklueng
Pol Lt Gen Kornchai Klayklueng

Crimes committed in the virtual world have intensified in both form and frequency, pushing the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau (CCIB) to diversify its suppression responsibilities as it celebrates its first anniversary.

The CCIB, a new-kid-on-the-block unit, has equipped the Royal Thai Police with some formidable crime-busting weaponry. Constantly on the lookout for cyber-crimes, the bureau's jobs include keeping a step ahead of cyber criminals, piecing together clues in criminal cases, both on- and offline, and acting fast to catch the culprits in the real world.

The bureau, helmed by Pol Lt Gen Kornchai Klayklueng, was established on Sept 9 last year although it did not get down to performing its first crime-busting mission until Dec 22.

Pol Lt Gen Kornchai has been commissioner of the bureau since day one. He told the Bangkok Post that the CCIB is working on 2,480 cases involving 3,020 suspects. On average the bureau manages to arrest suspects in 10 cases a day.

A total of 928 officers have been deployed nationwide in active positions related to suppression and prevention of cyber-crimes and investigation services.

The CCIB's investigation and crime suppression tasks are summed up in five areas: online fraud and call-centre scams, illegal trade of prohibited items, violation of cyber security, exploitation of children and women and pornography, and online gambling.

In the online-fraud cases, the bureau had on April 1 captured 17 suspects, including Singaporeans, Chinese and Malaysians, in the "shutdown petrol" scam which defrauded some 300 people by luring them to invest in a bogus petrol company.

On Feb 11, a Dutch man was caught swindling more than 5,000 people in a fraudulent scheme to invest in a shopping mall. He was intercepted at Suvarnabhumi airport as he was fleeing the country.

In illegal online trades, police nabbed three major illegal firearms traders following raids in Chiang Rai and Khon Kaen on Aug 11.

A total of 1,600 rifles, 173 pistols and more than 970,000 cartridges were seized from the suspects. On July 16, two men were charged with selling 76kg of marijuana and 112 bottles of marijuana oil online. Police found they had more than 30 million baht in their bank accounts.

As for cyber security violations, the bureau has sought prosecution against hackers of information, suspects in ransomware networks and those spreading fake news.

On Aug 4, the CCIB arrested a suspect who duped people into paying to secure appointments for non-existent Moderna vaccine in Chachoengsao. More than 50 fell prey to the scam causing 200,000 baht in damages.

On the exploitation of women and children, the internet is a free market for sharing video and still images of nudity and child pornography. These illegal activities are often linked to human trafficking networks. On Jan 26, the bureau caught a woman who ran an application featuring livestreams of sexual acts involving underage children.

In online gambling, the police launched sting operations across seven provinces including Bangkok and Chiang Mai on Feb 24, in which 34 people were arrested for running an illegal football betting application with more than one billion baht in circulation.

In January, two South Korean nationals, wanted on an Interpol red notice, were rounded up in Phuket on a charge of opening an online casino.

Of all the cyber-crimes, hackers and ransomware are gaining ground to emerge as threats to people's information security, according to Pol Lt Gen Kornchai.

"These crimes pose a real challenge. Most people are not aware of the insidious danger of living in a globalised world where the hackers can creep up on you 24 hours," he said.

People should be educated more about online threats to their privacy, personal safety and asset security, he said.

The CCIB has teamed up with the National Cyber Security Agency (NCSA) to devise new approaches and methods of heightening cyber security protection. The bureau is experiencing shortages in manpower and equipment although the agency is making efforts to tackle the problems so it can grow this year.

"What we're heading in a direction where we can expect to see cyber-crimes being reined in more," he said.

However, more equipment is needed to mount crucial tasks such as suspect identification and salvaging evidence in a digital database.

"Just like we need bricks and cement to build a strong house, digital tools can do much to provide cyber safeguards for people," Pol Lt Gen Kornchai said.

"We can't totally eradicate cyber-crimes. However, it is within our power to keep the crimes down as much as possible," he said.

The CCIB faces constraints in providing consistent training to its personnel as digital threats constantly evolve, so Pol Lt Gen Kornchai said the bureau has secured overseas training and support in the form of equipment.

Turning closer to home, he said the CCIB is developing a system where people can a file a complaint and seek police assistance online.

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