The police cybercrime unit investigated 576 complaints last year marking an increase in some 200 cases from previous years, National Security Minister Manuel Mallia said this morning.

The majority of the complaints involved computer misuse such as hacking and fraud.

During their investigations, officers seized 4,339 items, such as computers, for analysis.

Speaking during a seminar on Cybercrime, organised by the Malta Association of Risk Management, Dr Mallia said that the police cybercrime unit has a workforce of six officers headed by Inspector Timothy Zammit.This unit needs more resources given that when it was set up, in 2003, it handled some 60 cases a year that had now increased by six-fold.

“We are taking stock of the situation so as to upgrade the cybercrime unit keeping in mind the availability of EU finds,” he said, adding that one of his priorities on becoming a minster had been the introduction of a law to regulate the handling of electronic evidence.

He added that in Malta almost 80 per cent of households have internet access. Therefore it was important to ensure this was safe.

Dr Mallia also spoke about the need to further investment in combating “heinous cybercrime against children”.

Last year police investigated 11 cases of child pornography. The most important crime prevention measure, he said, was the manning of a Child Abuse Internet Filter. Through this filter, provided by Internet Service Providers, those participating in this initiative who attempted to access internet websites containing child indecent material were being re-directed to a ‘Stop Page’.

“This is another ongoing initiative that will require regular updating of the ‘stop-list’ through continuous dialogue with Internet Service Providers. All local Internet Service Providers have agreed to participate in this voluntary preventative measure and are currently blocking nearly 2,000 known child abuse web pages,” he said.

He added that MITA and the Malta Communications authority were drafting a National ICT strategy for the coming years. He would suggest that the police be  involved in the structuring of this strategy to ensure that the security of technology infrastructure as well as cybercrime will be a priority.