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Europol and Interpol focus on ‘Fighting Cyber Crime in a Connected Future’

by Brian Sims

More than 400 experts gathered at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague for what became one of the world’s biggest platforms of exchange on the subject of cyber crime. Under the theme of ‘Law Enforcement in a Connected Future’, the 7th Europol-Interpol Cyber Crime Conference looked at ways in which to effectively combine the expertise, resources and insights of law enforcement, the private sector and academia to make the Internet a more secure environment, especially in a society which is becoming increasingly dependent on digital capabilities. 

Over the course of three days from 9-11 October, 50 experts elaborated on the most pressing cyber threats of today and tomorrow. Key themes included the benefits and challenges of Artificial Intelligence for the police, the potential impacts of 5G technology, cross-border access to electronic evidence, obstacles to international co-operation on cyber crime investigations, the importance of cyber capacity building, cryptocurrency trends and challenges the use of open-source intelligence and privacy considerations.

This year, speakers included Amy Hess, the executive assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch, and Amy Hogan-Burney (general manager of Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit), both of whom delivered keynote speeches on the threats perceived by their respective communities.

Another international speaker was Cyrus Roberts Vance Jr, the incumbent District Attorney of New York County, who spoke on the impact of encryption on criminal investigations.

As highlighted in Europol’s 2019 Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment, which was presented at this conference, cyber criminals continue to become more audacious, shifting their approach away from scattered to more focused and carefully crafted attacks against larger, more profitable targets with the potential for ominously greater damage and major disruptions.

This year’s conference saw the participation of over 100 organisations and more than 70 different law enforcement agencies engaging in fruitful and solution-oriented discussions on how to tackle the challenges at hand head-on in a collective manner.

Closer co-operation in specific areas 

Conclusions reached emphasised the overriding need for an even closer co-operation in the areas of business e-mail compromise, The Dark Web, R&D and innovation.

While business e-mail compromise isn’t new, it’s most certainly evolving and causing increasing economic damage. It exploits the way in which corporations do business, taking advantage of segregated corporate structures and internal gaps in payment verification processes.

As The Dark Web evolves, it has become a threat in its own right, and not only as a medium for the sale of illicit commodities such as drugs, firearms or compromised data. The impact of law enforcement action in this arena is palpable as the environment remains in a state of flux.

Technology develops at an ever-increasing pace, in turn creating new challenges and opportunities for law enforcement. Adding to this the data volume challenge, legal challenges and a constantly expanding threat surface, there’s a need for R&D to develop solutions addressing the needs of law enforcement in an efficient and agile way.

The incorporation of innovation as part of an effective crime response isn’t exclusively a private sector affair. Europol and Interpol already co-operate with industry partners and academia to identify challenges and opportunities for law enforcement arising from new and emerging technologies such as 5G.

Progress in prevention and enforcement

EC3 operates from Europol's hq in The Hague

EC3 operates from Europol’s hq in The Hague

Steven Wilson, head of Europol’s European Cyber Crime Centre (EC3), said: “Three days of conference with partners from law enforcement, industry and academia have shown what we can achieve when we work closely together to tackle the global issue of cyber crime. We must make progress in prevention, legislation, enforcement and prosecution. All of these elements are necessary in order to disrupt organised crime activity and reduce the online threat to businesses, Governments and, above all, EU citizens. I look forward to building on our trusted relationships to deliver an improved international response to this ever-increasing challenge.”

With cyber criminals constantly evolving and transforming their tactics, Interpol’s director of cyber crime Craig Jones said the traditional model of policing is ‘being challenged like never before’. He stated: “The cyber criminal world is agile and adapting, connecting and co-operating in ways we never imagined even just a few years ago. Law enforcement must adapt to this ever-changing criminal environment in order to effectively protect communities in the cyber domain.”

At conference, Europol also launched CRYPTOPOL, the organisation’s first-ever cryptocurrency-tracing training game developed and co-created in close co-operation with the Centre of Excellence in Terrorism, Resilience, Intelligence and Organised Crime Research (CENTRIC). CRYPTOPOL is a simulator of a cryptocurrency investigation with an emphasis on hands-on practice using real-life situations.

CRYPTOPOL is accessible to all law enforcement cryptocurrency investigators around the world who can contact Europol to request access to the game. As the game contains information about tracing techniques used by law enforcement there’s no intention of making it publicly available.

*The Europol-Interpol Cyber Crime Conference is a joint initiative launched in 2013. Held annually, it’s hosted in alternate years by one of the two organisations

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