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16/07/2020   The growing threat of cybercrime requires more attention to fight against it

The introduction of the quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to ever greater digitisation of the society: use of services, remote work, e-commerce, and financial transactions. Also, the number of possibilities for committing criminal offence in cyberspace have increased.

The scale of cybercrime threats is high and growing, with cyber incidents almost doubling in recent years and the number of people exposed to cybercrime increasing. However, in 2019, compared to 2016, the number of criminal offences registered in the police decreased by 17 per cent. It does not reflect the actual trends of these threats and their growth as indicates the audit “Is cybercrime effectively combated” carried out by the National Audit Office of Lithuania (NAOL).  One of the reasons is that the police do not receive all information about possible criminal offences in cyberspace.  The existing shortcomings in the management of cyber incidents lead to the fact that the police are not provided with all information about cyber incidents which are potentially criminal offences.

Last year, almost 1,300 criminal offences committed in the cyberspace were registered, the largest share of which was Internet fraud – 58 per cent, as well as data- and system security-related crime – 34 per cent, child pornography – 6 per cent, and copyright and xenophobic offences – 2 per cent.

The audit carried out by the NAOL shows that public security in cyberspace needs to be increased. In 2019, compared to 2018, there was a 16 per cent increase in the population who believe that they are not capable of protecting themselves against cybercrime, and Lithuania ranked 26th in the EU according to this indicator. “Different institutions carry out preventive activities under their established priorities, they do not coordinate preventive measures with each other, do not perform impact assessments of preventive activities; therefore, similar preventive measures are implemented that do not produce the necessary results. For instance, educational activities on the subject of Internet fraud were carried out by five institutions,” says Asta Riukienė, Chief Adviser of the Governance Audit Department at the NAOL.

Moreover, the performance effectiveness of specialised cybercrime units is insufficient.  According to the results of the audit, in 2019, compared to 2016, the number of cybercrime pre-trial investigations transferred to the court by specialised units decreased by 9 per cent, while in 2017–2019, 11 per cent of decisions checked by prosecutors to suspend, terminate or refuse to initiate cybercrime pre-trial investigation were repealed as unfounded. The effectiveness of these investigations is influenced by the insufficiently efficient management model of specialised units and the training of officials and prosecutors.

To ensure that public security in cyberspace increases and cybercrime investigations improve, the NAOL, together with audited entities, has established indicators to assess whether the measures implemented have produced the intended result and expected impact. The aim is for 55 per cent of the population consider themselves to be able to protect effectively against cybercrime by 2024. In recent years, the number of such residents accounted for 40 per cent.  Also, it is aimed at that specialised units would transfer to the court at least 40 per cent of cybercrime pre-trial investigations by 2025.

The implementation of the NAOL recommendations would ensure inter-institutional planning, coordination and impact measurement of cybercrime prevention activities, a revised operational model for specialised units and an improved organisation of competence development.

Responsible for the information Communication Division
Last updated on 19 August 2020

National Audit Office of Lithuania

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