Detecting Crime in Cyberspace

Detecting Crime in Cyberspace

Dr K P Chow, Associate Director, CISC

Criminal activities on the Internet are on the increase, presenting new challenges to law enforcement agencies. Not only must they find the people responsible, they also have to keep up in the technological game in order to have any hope of uncovering cybercrimes in the first place.

Law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong have therefore turned to HKU's Department of Computer Science for help. Over the past six years the department's experts have devised tools to improve detection work and strengthen enforcement efforts.

"The number of cybercrime incidents has increased significantly, such as online piracy, child pornography and auction fraud," Dr K P Chow, Associate Director of the Faculty of Engineering's Center for Information Security and Cryptography (CISC), said.

"Technologies adopted by cybercriminals have also increased in their sophistication, evolving from traditional computer hacking to the sharing of confidential information using peer-to-peer networks, and the sharing of copyrighted videos and music using cloud based storage cyberlockers.

"CISC has been actively conducting research in this field since 2005 and we have developed systems for monitoring and analysing cybercrime."

For example, they have developed Lineament I, which detects suspected infringement of intellectual property rights over the Internet using BitTorrent; Lineament II, which uses cybercriminal profiling and artificial intelligence to detect potential auction fraud; and Lineament III, which analyses suspected criminal items in the cyberlocker.

Other programmes help to monitor the accidental leakage of confidential data and to collect useful statistical information from discussion forums, social media and peer-to-peer networks that can facilitate law enforcement activities, such as intelligence gathering, investigations and reporting.

The centre's research has also helped to shed light on important issues. One research paper has been used multiple times in Hong Kong courts to clarify digital evidence on child pornography cases. Recent research has looked more deeply into cybercrime investigation and forensics and how these can be enhanced. A new project supported by the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) will attempt to understand the behaviour and characteristics of cybercriminals.

In addition to projects that can help law enforcement agencies, the CISC also puts considerable effort into engaging the community on issues related to cybercrime. They have held numerous workshops, exhibitions and talks, and their work has received widespread coverage in the media.

Dr Chow added: "We are well aware of the importance of data privacy during investigations and we believe there should be a balance between investigating suspected criminal activities and data privacy protection."

Dr K P Chow received the Faculty Knowledge Exchange Award 2013 of the Faculty of Engineering for the 'Fighting High-Tech Crime in Cyberspace' project.