Gardai sharpen up tactics in war on internet crime
GARDA operations have been forced to undergo a major overhaul to combat the huge rise in internet crime.
A review of the force's response to cybercrime has been ordered by garda authorities as international studies confirm the flourishing trade in illegal transactions.
The scale of the crimes has not yet been determined, but it is estimated that global corporate losses alone stand at around €750bn a year.
One of the key players in the garda review group is Detective Inspector Paul Gillen, who has been the head of the force's computer crimes investigation unit for the past eight years.
The unit consists of 13 detectives who all either hold or are studying for Masters degrees in forensic computing and cybercrime investigation.
It operates within the garda bureau of fraud investigation but its role is rapidly expanding.
"There is hardly a major investigation nowadays in which we are not in some way involved because of the work we do," Insp Gillen told the Irish Independent.
"This unit is primarily responsible for the forensic retrieval of evidence from computers and that covers a wide area, ranging from murder to fraud, child exploitation, human trafficking, drug trafficking and data from CCTV cameras."
The unit has also been involved in the investigation into financial irregularities at Anglo Irish Bank.
But its biggest undertaking in 2010 was in tackling child exploitation and internet grooming, where it worked closely with a sex-crime squad from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
"Major developments in co-operation between international police forces have resulted in a series of significant successes against the gangs involved in child exploitation and trafficking, but it continues to be a serious problem worldwide," Insp Gillen warned.
His warning has been echoed by Europol, which was recently involved in an operation to uncover a criminal gang installing malicious software on unprotected web servers to distribute hardcore child sex abuse material online.
Ireland is playing a key role in the Europol crackdown and Insp Gillen is in charge of the European Cybercrime Training and Education group.
Insp Gillen underlined the importance of the co-operation as cybercrime is a borderless crime with organised gangs taking advantage of globalisation to move their operations through different continents.
A credit card could be "skimmed" in Dublin and the details used shortly afterwards to make expensive purchases in the Far East.