Wexford Gardaí at helm of cyber unit
A new wregional cyber crime unit headed up by Wexford Gardaí is making great strides in fighting online crime, but more funding is needed to ensure the perpetrators of online stalking, bullying, child pornography and scams can be caught.
Chief Superintendent John Roche said the South East Garda force division was chosen for a pilot cyber crime project meaning additional resources have been allocated to the region.
Supt Roche said: 'I have staff who are working full time in our special cyber crime investigation unit. We have had some significant investigations already. We are just lucky with the people we got on transfer in and we have guards from the county who are working on it.'
Supt Roche said although the number of reported cyber crimes to Wexford Gardaí remains relatively low, it is something which everyone has experienced, be it through an email seeking the payment of money or someone harassing someone they know online through social media.
'I think everybody has some personal experience of it where they get the unwanted spam email looking for money or the phone call looking for bank details. We are not noticing a lot of reported incidents of it but the guards themselves have been on the receiving end in their emails and anecdotally there's evidence coming through that there have been incidents.'
Supt Roche said usually bank information and security passwords are sought, adding that people of all ages are targeted.
'It can be elderly people, but it can also be across the board, particularly with emails. It seems to be systematic. We have no evidence of how they discover your personal information. On Apple Store there's a dot missing on the mail and people think its Apple contacting them. They must understand that most reputable companies will not email you asking you for security codes and information online.'
Supt Roche said Gardaí along the east coast are aware of blackmailing scams on companies and businesses, whereby staff members' email accounts are bombarded by hackers who threaten to delete their accounts and customer information.
'You have a company in Wexford and you will get emailed every ten seconds and your system will crash and then you will get a request to lodge €5,000 into an account. This is happening in the country and it's only a matter of time before it happens here.'
Supt Roche attended a briefing on the issue in Dublin recently, adding that companies in Wexford need to be aware that people can infiltrate their entire system and shut it down.
'It costs a huge amount of money to get your system back again.'
He said it is impossible for police to trace the money once it is lodged into the account as the money goes into numerous different accounts, often in different countries on different continents.
'It's an international crime using cloud technology and finding where the servers are is very problematic.'
Supt Roche said Wexford Garda Station is as well equipped as any other station in the country when it comes to technology for fighting cyber crime.
He said people have to be extremely careful and ensure they have privacy settings activated on their accounts. As revealed in a leading newspaper recently the government plans to announce a €200m investment in new IT systems to help Gardaí investigate cyber-crime and to update antiquated technology.