THE police are reporting an increase in cybercrimes and are urging Jamaicans to safeguard themselves against becoming victims.
"Cybercrimes are on the rise in this land... We have to be responsible as citizens and be careful what we put on digital media," said Inspector Warren Williams, who heads the constabulary force's Cybercrimes Investigation and Research Unit.
There have been more than 1,000 reported cases of cybercrimes so far this year, Williams told a press briefing at the downtown Kingston headquarters of the Organised Crime Investigation Division.
Cyber defamation, unauthorised access, impersonation and obscene publication were listed by the officers as among the cybercrimes under investigation by his office.
A case of impersonation occurred on Wednesday when the e-mail of former agriculture minister Christopher Tufton was hacked into. The perpetrator, pretending to be Tufton, sent mails from the breached e-mail asking the ex-minister's contacts to send money to a particular account as he was 'robbed' during a 'family vacation' in Madrid, Spain and needed cash.
Yesterday, Williams said that the unit was making progress in the fight against cyber-offenders, despite its 30 per cent arrest rate which he said was due to the length of time it took to investigate offences.
"... As we prepare our staff we are getting there and we think that we are making serious inroads in dealing with the new trend in terms of cybercrimes," Williams told reporters.
The unit is counting among its success the arrest on Monday this week of 27-year-old Kingston resident Ronald Oates, who police alleged was the mastermind behind a rash of cybercrime extortion in which nude photos and videos of mainly women were posted on a now shuttered local website earlier this year. Hundreds of persons are believed by the police to have been affected by the crime, although only 25 victims have come forward.
Yesterday, Acting Senior Superintendent Clifford Chambers alleged that Oates would hack into persons e-mail accounts and threaten to post nude photos of them that he took from their accounts if they did not pay him. He is also alleged to have encouraged persons to post nude photos and pornographic videos of others on his blog and then demand $10,000 and $20,000 from the persons whose images were posted to have them removed.
Oates is alleged to have extorted a total of $150,000 from his victims, among them celebrities and other popular social figures.
Oates was yesterday charged with unauthorised access and unlawfully making data available for the commission of an offence, both under the Cybercrime Act. He is also charged with unauthorised obstruction, obscene publication, extortion and conspiracy to extort.
He is expected to appear in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate Court next Wednesday.
In the meantime, the police are urging people to be sensitive about what they send via e-mail, to use alphanumeric passwords that are difficult to breach and not to post too much personal information on social networks.