Macedonia and Montenegro tackle cybercrime

22/10/2013

The two countries increasingly use specialised units to address the growing number of cybercrimes.

By Klaudija Lutovska for Southeast European Times in Bitola -- 22/10/13

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Many cybercrimes involve some form of credit card fraud and are initiated from outside the targeted country. [AFP]

Macedonia and Montenegro are employing specialised cyber units to confront the increasing levels of computer crime afflicting the Balkans, but efforts to ensure greater protection by co-operating with police forces regionally and internationally must continue, experts said.

The crimes mostly include unauthorised entry into computer systems, use of fake credit cards, software infringement, intellectual property theft and misuse of personal data for various illegal purposes, said Dimitar Trajanov, dean of the Computer Science and Engineering Faculty in Skopje.

"An increasing number of businesses are moving online and the cyber criminals have followed in that wave. What is missing is raising awareness of this type of crime," Trajanov told SETimes.

Macedonia ratified the Convention on Cybercrime in 2004 and harmonised its legislation with that of the EU. It also created specialised cybercrime units at the interior ministry and the public prosecutor's office.

Last year, law enforcement pursued nearly 190 cybercrimes, a three-fold increase from the year before.

"In the first half of this year, 24 cybercrimes were uncovered for which we filed charges," Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska told SETimes.

The suspects are charged with falsifying credit cards that they then used to extract money from ATM machines, gas stations, restaurants and jewellery stores, she said.

Security experts said criminals most often attack targets in other countries. Two-thirds of cybercriminals prosecuted in Macedonia are not Macedonian citizens.

Experts said establishing anti-cybercrime units, strengthened law-enforcement interoperability and efficiency are the keys to dealing with cybercrimes.

"The institutional co-operation in uncovering, prosecuting and adjudicating these crimes has improved," Aneta Arnaudovska, a prosecutor in Skopje, said.

Valentina Pavlicic of the special organised crime and corruption unit in Montenegro said a group of information technology experts was needed because cybercrime is becoming a serious problem.

"But such criminal acts cannot be uncovered without international co-operation when the crime takes place in one state, the perpetrators are in another and the assets and requisite items to conduct the crime are in a third country," Pavlicic said.

Montenegro created the unit at the interior ministry and it has established co-operation with police forces internationally.

Most recently, it uncovered an organised group of six hackers who transferred 1 million euros to their own accounts from Swiss and EU member states' banking systems.

The unit also participated in a multinational operation that sought criminals that stole nearly 200 million euros on three continents, resulting in the arrest of 13 people, including one from Bulgaria and two from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

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Security experts expect cybercrime to increase in the near future given the high number of people who are competent in IT and the varied opportunities the medium offers.

Big companies and celebrities, including influential social network personalities, are likely targets, said Nikola Tancevski, director of 3DmaX, a software application producer in Bitola.

"When all is said and done, individual protection is most important. One should strengthen the 'wall' to information access as much as possible," Tancevski told SETimes.

How do you protect yourself from cybercriminals? Join the conversation by making a comment below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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