BAHRAIN'S cyber police has launched a new crackdown on online sexual predators.
Social media abuses are on the rise as hackers seduce young women into sharing private pictures and then post them on pornographic or matrimonial websites, said the head of the Interior Ministry's cyber crime unit First Lieutenant Mohammed Yousif Bu Ali.
Some victims, who include children, are also being blackmailed into handing over cash to prevent their pictures from being circulated on the Internet.
The GDN had published that cyber crime had gone up 10-fold since the unit was set up in 2006 with more than 200 cases being reported every year since 2010.
However, Mr Bu Ali said his team was constantly facing challenges, including new threats or online trends used by hackers.
He urged women, who make up around 80 per cent of the victims, to do more to protect themselves.
He also said more should be done by the Bahraini and expatriate community to raise awareness about the dangers of trusting strangers on social media networks, particularly Twitter, which have become a venue for attacks.
"We are dealing with new patterns of crime used by individuals to cause damage to other parties," explained Mr Bu Ali.
"Our teams of forensic investigators are qualified to deal with new threats and are constantly monitoring any new trends.
"People create fake accounts on social media and start disclosing personal details of females and even post their pictures on pornographic or matrimonial sites.
"When it comes to individual cases that we deal with, the majority of them are related to social media abuses or theft mainly via Twitter and Facebook.
"During 2011 we witnessed an increase in cyber crime where social media was actively used to spread false news to fake accounts or profiles created on Twitter and Facebook."
Mr Bu Ali said last year the unit registered more than 200 cases ranging from hacking to cyber-fraud gangs offering bogus services - some of whom were caught and referred to the Public Prosecution.
He said the total number of violations, however, had dropped since 2011 because of increased awareness, but stressed it was not enough and more efforts were needed to combat cyber crime, including tougher legislation.
A draft law is currently being discussed in parliament, which could impose a maximum fine of up to BD100,000 on hackers.
"Last year we registered a total of 223 cases related to cyber crime while in 2011 we recorded 249 cases," he said.
"Hacking Facebook accounts is literally a cakewalk and this could be dangerous as there are photographs along with personal details, which could be used in the wrong way.
"But if people are more alert this could be avoided and they can stay safe and surf the web without complications."
Mr Bu Ali explained that the unit was not authorised to block websites, but its mandate was to investigate complaints related to cyber crime, including attacks on companies.
"From online corporate fraud to monitoring suspicious e-mails, our unit continues to deal with all such issues and we investigate accordingly," he said.
"In most cases, we easily track down the culprit after following our protocol, which includes first and foremost a complaint from the victim.
"We warn the person and the issue is amicably solved, but if the violation is serious then the culprit could face two years' imprisonment and fines.
"However, we are not responsible for blocking any content as there are other authorities involved, and we act only on complaints."
He referred to a high-profile case in 2008, where an overseas hacker breached the online security of a local money exchange company.
Mr Bu Ali said close to BD150,000 was transferred to personal bank accounts of individuals in different countries across the world.
"We questioned all the staff and even inspected their computers and found it was indeed targeted by hackers," he added.
"This case involved several third parties and we handed all our initial findings to the US Embassy in Manama and later the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was investigating the case."
Mr Bu Ali urged the public and companies to report any violations to the nearest police station or call the Criminal Investigation Department in Adliya on 17718888 to make an appointment with the cyber crime unit.