Major General Khamis Mattar Al Mazeina Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Dubai Police have come a long way in combating cyber-crime since the first case they handled in the early 90s.

Major General Khamis Mattar Al Mazeina, Dubai Police Chief, spoke about a number of cyber crime cases – some old, some recent – at a public lecture held at the Scientific and Cultural Association in Dubai on Wednesday evening.

In 2013, Dubai Police received 352 reports of cyber crimes entailing losses to the tune of Dh13.1 million, and the number increased to 745 reports involving Dh27.9 million in 2014, and to 1,011 cases worth more than Dh40.5 million in 2015.

Maj Gen Al Mazeina gave details of the first crime related to the internet in Dubai. “There was a young Emirati man, an IT graduate, who worked for a big petrol company. It was the time when internet cafes were popular. He would go to different internet cafes and hack into people’s emails – especially of girls’ – and steal their private photos and information.”

The man would then use the information to blackmail the girls asking for large sums of money, up to Dh100,000, depending on the extent to which the victims’ privacy was compromised in the photographs.

“We received many reports of this and, back then, we did not have any plans or resources to handle such cases because it was new to us,” said Maj Gen Al Mazeina, adding that Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim, Deputy Chairman of Police and General Security in Dubai, who was the then police chief, asked them to start looking for personnel who were familiar with computers and had the skill level to investigate hacking cases.

“We started looking at university students and youth and asking people to recommend anyone they knew who was skilled with computers. Finally, we found a young Emirati man,” he said.

The young man, who was still in university, was able track the blackmailer’s email and get information about him, said Maj Gen Al Mazeina.

“We arrested him in his work place, searched his home and took all his PCs so we could access the information and make sure he is the culprit,” he said.

The young man who helped Dubai Police track the blackmailer was offered a job with the police after completion of his studies abroad, said Maj Gen Al Mazeina.

“He is still working with us,” he added.

Since that day, Dubai Police has been attracting talented Emiratis, and also training and sending them abroad to further their education, to be one step ahead of cyber criminals. “Today, we can say that 99 per cent of people working on cyber-crime cases are Emiratis,” Maj Gen Al Mazeina said.

A recent cyber crime, he said, involved a gang that had stolen funds from a bank account and personal information from banks and used the information to get replacement SIM cards for mobile numbers linked to the accounts and then transferred large sums of money out of those accounts.

People arrested in connection with the case included those who worked at the bank and with telecommunication providers.

The crime took place in January this year; the gang was targeting banks all over the country and, in Dubai, 10 such cases were reported.

The gang consisted of nine Asians; six were arrested in the UAE and three abroad. Four of them were employed with banks and telecommunication providers.

In one of the 10 reports Dubai Police received, a man lost Dh150,000 from his company’s accounts, the funds being transferred Dh25,000 at a time, to fake or abandoned accounts.

The man realised what had happened when he was checking his accounts at the end of the month. The bank could not help him because the transaction was legally conducted. The culprits had access to the man’s mobile number so that they could authorise the transactions carried out at the bank.

To prevent people from falling prey to such scams and cyber crimes, Maj Gen Al Mazeina called for greater awareness to be created.

In light of these crimes, new provisions have been added, which allow banks to file a case on behalf of their customers if the latter suspect that their account has been broken into.