New digital forensic hub on the cards

$5.5 million over two years for RCIPS crime-fighting initiatives

A new digital forensic hub is in the works to tackle the growing number of cybercrimes engaging the attention of the police.

It comes as new scams featuring photos of public officials, including Premier Alden McLaughlin, Finance Minister Roy McTaggart and Deputy Governor Franz Manderson have been making the rounds on social media.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly Friday, McLaughlin addressed the issue, saying, “Funding has also been provided for the RCIPS to help in the fight against money-laundering and terrorist financing and the new digital forensics hub creates new capacity to investigate and tackle cybercrime.”

Last year, according to RCIPS crime statistics, at least 72 cyber-related crimes were flagged at the Financial Crime Unit. Among the top cyberoffences tracked were
‘business email compromise’ with 11 reports and ‘social media impersonation/fraud’ with 12 reports.

In 2018, the police figures pointed to a new cyberoffence, ‘sextortion with password email’. This is essentially a malware scam that is sent to a user’s email claiming to have access to that user’s webcam which was used to record potentially damaging videos of that person engaging in sexual acts. The scammer threatens to release the videos unless the user pays a fee.

In 2016, a Home Affairs Ministry report indicated that the RCIPS lacked both a “proper analytical understanding” of the types of cybercrimes and an operational plan to address them.

The ministry’s annual report for the 2015/16 fiscal year stated, “Phishing, trolling, malware, online scam, revenge pornography and the proliferation of child abuse imagery are each largely unreported and unrecorded [in Cayman.] Moreover, the RCIPS currently lacks a strategic framework and operational action plan for tackling cybercrimes.”

While the premier did not go into further detail on the hub, McTaggart said that a total of $5.5 million will be allocated to the Office of the Commissioner of Police “to invest in key service developments”.

Previously, appropriations for the police were assigned under the Ministry of Employment and Border Control. Now it will be titled ‘Appropriations to the Premier on behalf of the Office of the Commissioner of Police’, a new line item.

“The change of substance that lies behind this change in the tables in the budget book is that it effectively recognises the RCIPS at the ministry level in government terms rather than at the department level. The consequence of this is that the deputy governor is inviting the commissioner of police to act as a chief officer and to be part of his formal leadership team,” the premier told the Legislative Assembly on Friday.

He told legislators that serious crime is continuing to decline as he pointed to a dip in the local burglary rate.

“In 2017, the average burglary rate was around 42.5 per month. Last year’s successes had brought that down to 27 per month and the continued focus on neighbourhood policing and action against persistent and prolific offenders has reduced the average for the first nine months of 2019 to 23,” McLaughlin said.

He also stated that funding to progress the development of the new West Bay police station in Batabano, as well as to continue the three-year commitment to hire 75 police officers, has been allocated in the 2020-2021 budget.

McLaughlin added that an anti-gang strategy is being developed, led by the deputy governor.

The budget for the two-year cycle is pegged at US$2 billion. Debate on the fiscal package is set to begin Wednesday in the LA.

Security-related budget breakdown:

$6 million in 2020 and $4.3 million in 2021 for new border security systems; and fit-out and equipment for the department of Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman;

$1.1 million in 2020 and $4.4 million in 2021 to the Office of the Commissioner of Police to invest in key service developments.

$8.3 million in 2020 and $1.3 million in 2021 for Judicial Administration to fund the renovation and fit-out of the courts buildings in George Town.

$19.1 million in 2020 and $17.8 million in 2021 for Home Affairs Ministry for construction of a new prison facility at Northward; and enhanced information technology infrastructure to strengthen capacity to handle international tax cooperation and other financial services matters.