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Shanghai cops set for online 'crime' crackdown

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Shanghai police will start a hi-tech crime team tasked with monitoring all of the web sites registered in the city, as China’s law enforcers look to combat an apparent spike in domestic online crime.

Lu Weidong, deputy chief of Shanghai police bureau, told a cyber crime forum attended by China Daily that the extra resources were needed as criminals increasingly focus on exploiting the burgeoning e-commerce market and other online services.

"Cyber crime is no longer a high-tech crime exclusive to technical professionals. Internet users can use entry-level hacking software and become a real threat on the network platform," he said.

"We'll enhance supervision on the internet and have police oversight for every web site to scrutinise illegal conduct, similar to how police officers patrol communities in real life.”

Police will certainly have their work cut out. Two-third of Shanghai’s population use the internet and a whopping 800,000 web sites are registered in the city, while internet-related crime rose 44 per cent last year, from 3,281 to 4,712 cases, the report said.

China maintains that its businesses and citizens represent an attractive target for hackers outside the country and domestic cyber criminals.

However the scale of the problem is difficult to gauge given that online crime stats usually include things like pornography, gambling and spreading ‘rumours’.The goal of arresting ‘cyber crime’ or ‘illegal activity’ may therefore be bureaucrat-speak for monitoring and acting on content deemed politically disruptive or harmful to society. The latter label is sometimes applied to pornography, while China's authorities aren't keen on fraud and online rumours.

Rather tellingly, the state-run paper goes on to explain that “new communication channels, such as micro blogs, make the situation worse”.

These weibos and the rapid flow of information across them have been a constant headache for the authorities.

Police in China also have an advantage over many overseas counterparts when it comes to investigating potential incidents, given that every web site owner needs to go through a strict identification and registration check in order to obtain the relevant licenses to operate their online abode. ®

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