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Monday, May 16, 2016, 21:42

‘Sextortion’ cases on the rise

By Wang Yuke and Li Xiange
‘Sextortion’ cases on the rise

Officiating guests kick off the three-day Cyber Security Summit 2016 on Monday. (Provided to China Daily)

A young man, in want of a date or even a life partner, goes on line, meets a pretty girl, and the conversation turns a little risque. Playfully she asks the guy to take off his clothes, so she can get a good look at him.

The next thing he knows, the woman is all over him, demanding money – threatening to send the naughty images to his friends and family – because unbeknown to him she has recorded everything, including whatever lewd acts she may have persuaded him to carry out.

“Sextortion” is on the rise in Hong Kong, warns Gary Tang, chief inspector of police at the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau.

The predators, Tang says, seek out their victims on social media platforms and dating sites. There were 1,098 cases that cost victims HK$3.5 million dollars last year.

Tang spoke to the three-day Cyber Security Summit in Hong Kong, which opened Monday.

The victims, mostly young men aged between 15 and 30, are easy prey, says Tang. Few women fall for the scam. They’re already wary and understand the potential danger, he remarks.

Romance and compensated dating online scams are also on the rise in Hong Kong. Compensated dating usually involves a form of prostitution, in which young women agree to go out on dates with lonely men in exchange for payment.

Cybercrime is a changing scene that shifts like a kaleidoscope. The government works closely with the Interpol Eurasian Working Group on Cybercrime, assisting in investigations and helping to rein in criminals. Cyber security trainers are also invited to Hong Kong to help warn the public about dangerous online scams.

‘Sextortion’ cases on the rise

Gary Tang, chief inspector of police at the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau, told the conference that email scams remain the most prevalent, followed by online shopping deceptions, then sextortion. (Provided to China Daily)

Greater efforts needed

The industry still needs more IT security and greater collaboration among individuals, organizations and law enforcement, experts at the summit say.

The online dangers are growing. Better prevention and response are essential, says Under-Secretary for Innovation and Technology David Chung Wai-keung. The cost of computer crime last year in Hong Kong reached HK$1.8 billion.

Gary Tang told the conference email scams remain the most prevalent, followed by online shopping deceptions, then sextortion.

In 2015, 994 email scams cost victims HK$1.45 billion. There were 1,422 cases involving deception on social media which ran up a tally of HK$60.1 million, according to Tang.

Tang says partnerships with stakeholders and collaboration with law enforcement are critical.

Tang also advised the public to update anti-virus definitions, use strong passwords and enhance cyber security awareness.

Duncan Wong, director of security and data science at the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI), says the institute is training more security experts to combat cyber attacks from all over the world.

Senior System Manager of the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer Cari Wu said the government’s computer emergency response team, GovCERT.HK, needs more experts in the field to beef up its security capabilities. The team also provides online training and technical sharing sessions, and is engaging in more public outreach with seminars and school presentations offered by security experts.

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