NBI goes hi-tech vs cyber crime

Bebot Sison Jr., Cecille Suerte Felipe () - February 21, 2004 - 12:00am

Law enforcers can now go after computer hackers and other cyber-criminals with the help of computer forensics equipment from the United States recently acquired by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and inaugurated yesterday.

The equipment, as well as technical assistance, was provided by the the US state department’s anti-terrorism program.

NBI Director Reynaldo Wycoco, who led the inauguration, said the equipment will surely boost the government’s drive against fraud and computer crimes.

"We have to improve our crime capability in many aspects... This is a milestone in putting up a cyber-crime forensic laboratory at the NBI, the first of its kind in the history of the Philippine law enforcement," Wycoco said during the program.

The computer forensics equipment will be handled by the NBI Anti-Fraud and Computer Crime Division (AFCCD), led by lawyer Elfren Meneses.

Thames International Business School president Vivienne Tan was the guest speaker at the inauguration of the NBI’s computer forensics equipment. She lauded the NBI’s "fighting spirit" despite the lack of equipment that has hampered the government’s campaign against cyber-crime in the past two years.

Thames was the first institution to file a complaint under the E-Commerce Law (Republic Act 8792), which was passed shortly after the I LOVE YOU bug corrupted computers in many countries around the world.

Tan said the inauguration of the NBI computer forensics laboratory and the training of NBI agents on cyber-crime is a major step in building trust and confidence between the government and companies victimized by cyber-criminals.

She said that in 2001, while Thames was preparing for another batch of students, they started to suspect that their system had been hacked into and sensitive proprietary information copied.

Thames, established in the late 1990s, was the first international college with proprietary British-based curriculum and over 20 different university partnerships in United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

Thames officials immediately reported the incident to the NBI, whose initial investigation found that there may be a conspiracy among current and former Thames employees.

In 2002, the NBI and the school’s lawyers charged two former Thames employees with violating the e-commerce law.

"While the hacking did not inflict any physical damage to our school, it carried with it a major threat that our proprietary materials and curriculum were now out in the open. In an age when an organization’s lifeblood is its proprietary knowledge base, the situation put the school in a real jeopardy," Tan said.

Tan admitted that she initially planned to remain silent and focus on damage control. However, she later decided to come out in the open when she realized that keeping silent would go "against the very essense of our core values as an educational institution."

"We believe that somebody should have the courage to speak out and go against cyber-criminals. We wanted to set an example, as a cyber-crime victim who was not afraid to come out in the open," she added.

While Tan and other Thames officials were following up their complaint with the NBI, they learned that the bureau’s only weapon against cyber-crime was one computer — borrowed from the bureau’s evidence stockyard.

Tan said they decided to enlist the services of a Hong Kong-based British computer forensic expert to preserve evidence.

She cited that the hacking incidents prompted Thames to lead an advocacy campaign against irresponsible and criminal use of information and communication technology.

Tan said the general public is still very much in the dark when it comes to the dangers of cyber-crime. She also noted that the proposed cyber-crime bill, which provides tougher penalties for cyber-criminals, was never passed into law.

"The law enforcers may have the ability to catch cyber-criminals, but without the support of lawmakers in passing more effective laws and without the judiciary’s resolve to revise their system, then all efforts will be in vain," she pointed out.

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