The pandemic brought an increase in cybercrime cases and the police are facing an increasing number of citizen denunciations. Cybercrime, according to police, manifests itself in online shopping, access to emails and social networks, as well as blackmail used for financial and sexual gain.
In 2020 alone, which coincides with the pandemic period, there were more than 200 requests to close the addresses on social networks for exposure of personal data.
During the first year of the pandemic (2020), the number of denunciations increased by 35.65% compared to the previous year.
The highest number of registered cybercrime proceedings in the prosecution is at the Court of First Instance, Tirana, which accounts for 67% of the total number of denunciations, followed by Shkodra, with 6%, while the prosecutions of Përmet, Saranda and Puka have not registered criminal proceedings related to cybercrime for 2020. Penalties for cybercrime range from 6 months to 3 years.
According to prosecution data, the defendants are all adults (over 18 years old), of whom 76.92% are male and 23.08% are female. About half are with higher education (46.15%). More than 60% of the defendants reside in the city.
Police say that in most of the cases investigated, the persons involved in cybercrime have not had any previous criminal activity.
“Usually, these people have knowledge in the field of computers and do not belong to a particular social category. In many cases, the perpetrators are minors.”
Experts: The police do not have the necessary capacities
The number of cases investigated by the Cybercrime Investigation Sector is on the rise, but experts express doubts about the police capacity to tackle cybercrime.
“The fight against this crime, in my opinion, is very low, as the institution or the office in the State Police does not have the necessary capacities to fight it,” said IT expert Genti Progni.
A February 2022 CRCA / ECPAT report urges the government to invest “urgently in the State Police, Cybercrime Sector, to strengthen training, technology and strengthen cybercrime investigation”.
“One of the main reasons that causes cybercrime is ignorance and lack of information. We have many cases when people have fallen prey to attacks, especially phishing in emails and have been robbed of various amounts of money. During the pandemic we had numerous cases of theft through websites, which were supposed to sell products, thefts which have reached considerable sums. The customer orders the product, pays and then the product does not arrive. We also had an intervention from the police or, more precisely, from Unit C that deals with cybercrime, where many people were arrested, who had benefited thousands of euros from this scheme”, – says Genti Progni for ACQJ.
Police alone is not enough to fight cybercrime, but more information and awareness is needed for users.
“It is time to open an institution, or AMA itself, ( Audio-Visual Media Authority ), must do more to be more protected online. This will reduce attacks, inform the public, prevent and fine-tune the security of Internet use,” said Progni.
The Center for Child Protection urges the Ministry of Education to make it mandatory for “teachers to inform children and adolescents about child protection mechanisms and lines.”
False profiles, growing concern
O.M, has filed a report with the police and the prosecution, because other persons have created a false profile with her data. The profile was reported on the social network, Instagram.
O.M, as well as the complainant has asked her friends to do the same, in order to close this profile. Although the profile opened on behalf of O.M, has not made any posts, the concern remains over the misuse in communication with her friends on this social network.
However, after numerous reports that O.M made on the social network, Instagram, about the profile with the name nooneueoeo and the address https://www.instagram.com/nooneueoeo, the support group has responded via e-mail, that it can not engaged in the present case, due to the large influx of complaints during the pandemic. O.M, expects the report made to the police to yield results.
Internet users, experts warn, should be careful, especially in using Messenger, when they see that they have received a link.
“In all cases, when we have an attack with a URL, a link, a copy paste must be made in an incognito browser, to prevent the “attacker” from retrieving data. You should always see the domain name accurately , because a changed letter is enough and the page changes, where you are supposed to be clicking.”
“Life” online, the main danger for minors
The number of reported pages of material containing sexual violence against children, compared to the period before COVID, tripled during 2021.
Over 2800 pages with content of sexual violence with children were reported to ISIGURT.AL.
A CRCA/ECPAT report raises the alarm about juvenile safety online.
The most affected age of children and adolescents from online incidents is the 15-17 age group , which accounts for about 47% of all reported incidents.
Altin Hazizaj, director of the Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights, says immediate measures should be taken to increase the safety of minors navigating the Internet.
CRCA recommends: “Further improvements to the Criminal Code, the Law on the Protection of the Rights of the Child and the Law on Electronic Communications – as well as the obligation for Internet companies to install protective filters for access to inappropriate or illegal material for children.”
The capital has half the number of reported incidents, but it is not only Tirana that reports incidents related to virtual life. Elbasan, Fieri, Durrës, Peqini and Vlora are cities where incidents related to minors are reported.
Instagram is the platform with the most incidents, followed by YouTube and Facebook. Internet security remains one of the biggest challenges for users and institutions of the country.