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LCQ11: Combating computer virus

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Ting-kwong and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, in the Legislative Council today (June 2):


     It has been reported that a study has pointed out that the varieties of computer virus programs have been increasing drastically, with about 240 million new ones globally last year, which doubled the 2008 figure and broke all records; and it is estimated that a total of more than 43,000 computers in Hong Kong were infected by computer viruses of botnets last year, putting Hong Kong in the third place among all Chinese cities, only after Guangzhou and Shenzhen. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the computers of government departments had been infected by various computer viruses in the past three years; of the Government's latest specific measures to prevent computer viruses from invading computer systems; given the development of technologies, whether the Government will increase its resources for preventing the invasion of computer viruses; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) of the numbers of cases in the past three years in which the persons involved had been arrested for disseminating computer viruses with malicious intent and the penalties imposed on such persons;

(c) whether the authorities will examine if the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Hong Kong have adequate capability and awareness regarding the prevention of computer viruses; of the authorities' measures to support SMEs in avoiding invasion of their computer systems by viruses; if no such measures are in place, of the reasons for that; and

(d) given that the aforesaid study has pointed out that more than 43,000 computers in Hong Kong were infected by computer viruses of botnets last year, whether the authorities has assessed if the situation merits its concern; whether they will provide the latest relevant information and educate the public so as to enhance their awareness and alertness; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     Regarding the questions raised by the Hon Wong Ting-kwong, my reply is as follows:

(a) In the past three years (from May 2007 to April 2010), one government department had reported an incident on computer virus infection in November 2008. The infection was quickly contained and no government service was affected.

     The Government has established comprehensive IT security policies and procedures to combat security threats including those posed by computer viruses. We implement firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems and also require all computers to be installed with anti-virus software with up-to-date signature file. The costs for these security measures have been included in the information technology (IT) budgets in bureaux/departments (B/Ds).

     To combat emerging computer viruses, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) closely monitors the local and international trends of cyber attacks and the associated mitigation measures. It issues news and alerts to B/Ds to ensure effective and prompt actions would be taken. OGCIO also regularly reminds B/Ds to ensure security safeguards such as anti-virus protection measures and software patch management are in place. In OGCIO, a team comprising nine IT staff is responsible for IT security matters including surveillance on security threats and giving advice to B/Ds on anti-virus protection measures. For mission-critical systems, B/Ds are also required to establish security incident handling and response teams to cater for possible security attacks on the systems. The resources required are reviewed and adjusted periodically depending on the risks involved.

(b) According to the information provided by the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF), the number of technology related crime cases amounted to 634 in 2007, 791 in 2008 and 1,506 in 2009. There is no readily available data on the specific number of cases of arrest due to malicious release of computer virus. According to the Crimes Ordinance (Cap. 200), a person who without lawful excuse destroys or damages any property belonging to another, intending to destroy or damage any such property or being reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged shall be guilty of an offence "destroying or damaging property". A person guilty of the offence shall be liable on conviction upon indictment to imprisonment for 10 years.

(c) According to the "Report on 2009 Annual Survey on Information Technology Usage and Penetration in the Business Sector" published by the Census and Statistics Department, amongst the establishments having used computers in business, 93.2% of small enterprises and 96.4% of medium enterprises adopted anti-virus software to protect their computer systems.

     In respect of support to SMEs, the Hong Kong Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Centre (HKCERT) which is operated by the Hong Kong Productivity Council with subsidised funding by the Government receives security incident reports and provides assistance to the business enterprises and the community regarding the prevention of, and protection against, computer security threats, including those from computer viruses, and in the recovery actions necessary after encountering security incidents. In the last three years, the number of virus infection cases handled by the HKCERT has decreased from 516 in 2007 to 337 in 2009.  

     OGCIO, with the joint effort of HKPF and HKCERT, had published an "Information Security Guide for Small Businesses" booklet for SMEs to raise their awareness and knowledge of information security. We also carry out free-of-charge seminars for the public and SMEs to enhance their awareness on information security under the annual "Clean PC Day" campaign.

(d) The Government places great emphasis on cyber security and carries out various publicity and educational programmes to enhance public awareness in protecting their computer assets from virus infection. We maintain a one-stop information security portal ( which provides the latest news, up-to-date reference information and security alerts accessible by the public. Information on computer viruses and other malicious software, botnets and related news and aversion measures is also available on this portal. We adopt other channels including radio broadcast of tips and techniques on information security, publishing and disseminating information security booklets as well as conducting seminars in collaboration with other parties to help the public understand and handle information security problems.

Ends/Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Issued at HKT 12:39


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