Women in Cyber: Convicting Singapore's first dark web crime
By Sean Nolan
Interview with DSP Ann Goh, OC Team, Technology Crime Investigation Branch, Criminal Investigation Department, Singapore Police Force.
Tell us more about your role. How do you protect the digital realm and improve citizens’ lives?
I am currently an OC (Officer-in-Charge) Team attached to the Technology Crime Investigation Branch (TCIB) of the Criminal Investigation Department, Singapore Police Force. I lead a team of dedicated technology crime investigators to combat cybercrime and investigate offences committed under the Computer Misuse Act of Singapore. Our main aim is to attribute and investigate cybercrime committed by criminal threat actors, both within and beyond our shorelines, and work towards putting them behind bars. With the digital realm transcending geographical boundaries, we work closely with foreign law enforcement agencies and partners to disrupt cybercrime syndicates, protecting and seeking justice for our citizens.
What sparked your interest in cybersecurity?
As a Police officer, I have always paid particular attention to news reports on local crimes. In year 2013, there were several reports on the hacker “The Messiah” who claimed to be a member of the infamous Anonymous hacker group, attacking Singapore government websites. I was a patrol Team Leader in Jurong West Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC) at that time. I was intrigued by the reports and it sparked my interest in the cyber domain. I started thinking how I could contribute to the fight against cybercriminals. I joined TCIB the following year—the beginning of my 7 years of exploration into the little known world of cyber.
What has been the most impactful case of your career?
I have handled numerous technology crime cases in the seven years I have spent with TCIB and one particular case left a deep impression on me. The case involved three individuals misusing victims’ banking credentials obtained from the darknet to make unauthorised purchases. Two of the individuals were juveniles who got to know the adult mastermind through a dark web forum. The investigation into the case was complex and time-consuming as information flowing through the dark web was anonymised, which was a major challenge for us when seeking attribution. Fortunately, through good teamwork and skillful investigation, we managed to solve the case, leading to the first dark web related conviction in Singapore in 2017. The case was featured on Crimewatch. The case left a deep impression on me not because we managed to solve it despite its complexity but due to the perpetrator’s young age, which was worrying. The case reminded me of the vulnerability of youths to negative influences. Due to the nature of cybercrime, the entry barrier for would-be cybercriminals is greatly reduced, putting our youth in closer reach of sinister influences with just a click of the mouse. This further strengthens my resolve to protect the public from the menace of cybercrime.
What challenges would you like to take on in the next year?
In addition to my role as an OC Team, I am also being entrusted with the responsibility of coordinating capability development initiatives within the branch. I review our training roadmap to ensure our technology crime investigators continue to stay competent, relevant and effective in the fight against cybercrime, upholding TCIB’s image as the premier cybercrime investigation authority, not only in Singapore, but within the region.
Who or what inspired you this year, and why?
I am inspired by the new officers who have joined TCIB. It is heartening to see positive and driven people joining our family. It would be satisfying to groom them to become the future leaders of the branch by providing them with the appropriate and necessary training to set them on the right track.
What advice would you give to women looking to start a career in cybersecurity?
Do not feel limited by your gender. Regardless of gender, pursuing a career in technology crime investigation would require us to be open and adaptable to learning new things, as well as having the resilience to cope with ever evolving dynamic threat of cybercrime. If you have the passion, go for it. Keep learning, be inquisitive, and believe that we can make a difference at the workplace.
If you could sum up your life motto in one sentence, what would it be?
You Only Live Once.
Life is too short to fret over the small stuff and we ought to live it to the fullest. Appreciate our loved ones, the nature and ourselves. And find the true meaning in the things and job that we do.