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Interpol office in Singapore boosts fight against cyber crime

[SINGAPORE] Global police organisation Interpol on Monday formally opened a new office in Singapore that will provide additional support to law enforcers and boost the fight against Internet-based criminal activities.

The new Interpol Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) will ensure that the agency is "best placed to assist police forces around the world address emerging threats," Jurgen Stock, Interpol's secretary general, said in a speech at the centre's inauguration.

Cybercrime "has been prioritised across the world as people, their homes, and national critical infrastructure become smarter, or in other words, networked," Stock said.

The Singapore complex, located within the Southeast Asian city-state's leafy diplomatic quarter, will complement the agency's headquarters in the French city of Lyon.

Interpol currently has 110 officers from over 50 countries based in Singapore.

The state-of-the-art building houses a forensics laboratory to support digital crimes investigations and research on the newest modus operandi of cyber criminals.

It also has a command and coordination centre that can provide support to national police forces during crises, complementing similar facilities in Lyon and Buenos Aires.

Interpol said the Singapore complex played a crucial role in crippling the "Simda" botnet last week which had infected more than 770,000 computers worldwide.

The botnet - which is a collection of infected computers that take orders from central servers - was used by cyber criminals to gain remote access to computers for the theft of personal details including banking passwords.

At the moment, the "Internet of Things" - where devices from televisions, to refrigerators, door locks and thermostats are interlinked - must be scrutinised for security weaknesses, said Stock, a former high-ranking German law enforcement official.

"As technology development speeds ahead, so do the criminals, quite frankly leaving the world's governments and their police forces behind," he said.

"We must embrace developments such as the Internet of Things ...and the advantages they bring while simultaneously driving dialogue about their security and their safe use," he added.

"If we do not break down the walls of silence, if the world does not work together, we could soon see cybercriminals use our homes against us, and even our bodies."

A study by the Hewlett-Packard security unit Fortify released last July found 70 per cent of the most commonly used "Internet of Things" devices contain vulnerabilities, including inadequate passwords or encryption.

The study said eight of 10 devices tested leaked private information that could include the user's name, email address, home address, date of birth, credit card or health information.

The study followed multiple warnings about the hacking of medical devices, cars, televisions and even toilets that have an Internet connection.

Stock said another priority is a discussion on "the place of anonymity on the Internet and the need of police to identify and trace cybercriminals while nonetheless safeguarding the privacy of other users".

Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is also the interior minister, said the IGCI can serve "as a key node in Asia to support international operations against transnational crime."