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More people seeking help on cybercrime

CYBERCRIME has become a daily occurrence in Cyprus and society is gradually familiarising itself with the idea of seeking help for internet protection, according to the Cyprus Neuroscience and Technology Institute (CNTI); operator of the project CyberEthics. 

Out of the 48 cases of people calling the CyberEthics helpline between July 2009 and August 2011; forty occurred between September 2010 and September 2011.

“This clearly shows that Cypriot culture is slowly changing” said Iliada Spyrou, coordinator of the CyberEthics helpline. “It is no longer strange to call up for help regarding the internet, no matter how trivial the question may be.”

Among the main problems encountered by internet users is the theft of personal and financial data, while up to 48 per cent of callers sought help to address technical problems. 

On five occasions, parents sought advice on how to deal with an apparent internet addiction of their children, while there were also five cases of internet harassment. 

“These problems have existed for a while; the main difference is that people are now actively seeking advice on how to deal with them” said Spyrou. 

CyberEthics is an EU co-sponsored programme that looks to raise awareness on internet protection and address issues such as child pornography, racism and internet harassment. It also provides a helpline and a hotline for reporting cybercrimes.

In the effort to raise awareness, the CNTI organises presentations, while there are also appearances on television, the radio and of course on the internet. Through its close cooperation with the police departments home and abroad, the CNTI forwards any cases of serious cybercrime to the appropriate department.

Markos Nikolettis, director of the police internet crime office, said that cybercrime was on the rise, especially in cases of personal data theft and hacking of email accounts and codes.

Nikolettis said that cybercrime was prominent in Cypriot society because there was a general sense of ignorance and negligence among internet users. “Social network accounts, such as Facebook, are created without taking the necessary precautions to protect personal data and people only take notice when it is too late” said Nikolettis.

Between March 2011 and August 2011, seven cases of child pornography were reported in Cyprus, while there were over 30 cases of hacking. Nikolettis explained that due to legal restrictions, the police’s role is mostly limited to post-crime investigations rather than crime prevention.

With that in mind, Nikolettis highlighted the important role of non-governmental organisations, such as the CNTI, in raising awareness among users and said that parents had an integral role to play in educating their children in internet security.

“Most parents are now in their forties, most of them have their i-Pads and their Blackberries and use the internet extensively” said Nikolettis.

 “It is important that they educate their children to be careful with their use of the internet so that they avoid being victims of internet harassment or personal data theft.”

Nikolettis praised the role of the Education Ministry and all other organisations in finally addressing the issue of cybercrime and warned that “this problem was here to stay, so people should get informed.”