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Switzerland cracks down on cybercrime

Fighting cybercrime has become a priority for the Swiss police swissinfo.ch

Switzerland has been turning up the heat on cybercrime since January this year when the government launched a special unit to police the internet.

This content was published on November 20, 2003 - 14:40

The Swiss Coordination Unit for Cybercrime Control (Cyco) handles more than 500 complaints related to websites’ contents every month.

The internet can deliver vast amounts of information to people all over the world but this also poses some dangers.

“The internet offers everything apart from death,” Marc Henauer, a criminal analyst for Cyco, told swissinfo.

His colleague, Philipp Kronig, disagrees on this point. “There are even appeals for murder on the web,” he said.

Anarchy

Pornography, crime and violence, extremist and racist views are all on offer on the web. Savvy surfers can even get their hands on illegal weapons.

“If we don’t do anything about it, the internet will become anarchic,” Kronig told swissinfo. “Our basic rule is that whatever is illegal in the real world is illegal on the internet.”

“More than half of the reported sites are pornographic. Fifty per cent contain hard pornography and child pornography.”

The eight-strong Cyco team monitors suspicious websites by copying their contents on to their own systems. They then check them for links or references to Switzerland and see whether their authors could be legally prosecuted.

“If the content of the site is relevant to Switzerland, we write a dossier and forward it to the cantonal authorities concerned. Cyco itself does not conduct any investigations,” Kronig explained.

Reports on sites not affecting Switzerland are passed on to the relevant countries. “We don’t want to police the world so we concentrate our efforts on Switzerland,” he added.

Chat rooms

Although Cyco’s main work revolves around pornographic sites, since April the watchdog has also been looking into online chat rooms and swap shops.

“The internet is very interesting as it changes constantly and expands very quickly. A site which is successful today might not necessarily be successful tomorrow,” monitoring expert, Roger Küffer, told swissinfo.

The Cyco team - consisting of lawyers, policemen, research journalists and internet experts - work closely with their counterparts abroad.

“The worldwide web has no borders and that’s why it is so important to exchange information with other countries. We work closely with other police forces,” Kronig said.

Although Switzerland was the last country in Western Europe to set up a special unit to fight cybercrime, Kronig believes it has benefited from this delay.

“We’ve been able to learn from other countries and we’ve chosen the best way,” Kronig said.

Switzerland currently ranks average in European league tables on fighting cybercrime.

swissinfo, Gaby Ochsenbein (translation: Billi Bierling)

Key facts

Cyco was launched in January 2003.
Eight people work on about 500 complaints per month.
Cyco’s budget amounts to SFr1.3 million and comes from the cantons and the government.
Fifty per cent of complaints are about pornographic sites.

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