Internet policing hinges on transnational cyber crime

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China, as a major victim of computer hacking, urgently needs to collaborate with the United States to combat cyber crime, an official of the Ministry of Public Security said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the Fourth US-China Internet Industry Forum, Gu Jian, vice-director of the ministry's network security protection bureau, said that since computer crimes were included in China's Criminal Law in 2009, the country's police have destroyed more than 80 criminal gangs involved in computer hacking, the online theft of data and running botnets to spread malicious software.

Gu said more than 200 government websites have been attacked or otherwise infiltrated on a daily basis, largely from abroad.

Eight out of 10 computers in China with access to the Internet have also been controlled by botnets at some point, commanding them to forward junk mail or viruses to other computers on the Internet without their owners being aware of it, Gu said.

Earlier statistics from the Information Office of the State Council show that in 2009 more than one million IP addresses in China were controlled from overseas and 42,000 websites were hijacked by hackers.

"The transnational deluge of cyber crime, including computer hacking, online fraud and pornography, suggests that it is in every country's interest to counter these challenges together and to cooperate in cracking down on this type of crime," Gu said.

However, the current mechanism of cooperation is inefficient in addressing the situation, because of the different legal systems in the countries involved and insufficient communication between them.

"For example, spreading pornography is a crime in China, but not in the US, where child pornography is nevertheless a crime. These differences make it difficult to cooperate in policing these activities," he said.

Since 2009, China has sought cooperation from the US on 13 cases of Internet crime, ranging from fake bank websites to child pornography, but has yet to receive a response, according to Gu.

"In some other cases, we received replies six months after we sent a request for assistance, by which time the data was no longer useful as evidence.

"Electronic evidence of cyber crime can be easily damaged, which requires us to obtain the evidence as soon as possible. However, the current system of cooperation between countries is terribly inefficient," he said.

To remedy the situation, he called for strengthening international cooperation by giving priority to cases where a certain Internet activity is a crime in more than one country, improving bilateral agreements on providing judicial assistance in prosecuting cyber crime and resolving problems in criminal proceedings related to collecting evidence from different countries.

Gu's remarks were echoed by Tim Cranton, associate general counsel for Microsoft, who said he is optimistic about establishing collaborative arrangements in the future due to the common ground that countries share in this area - a more secure Internet environment.

"Cyber crime is truly global. We need to break through national barriers, and even barriers among agencies within the same country, to come up with a global solution," Cranton said.

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