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Europol: Pioneering Innovative Responses to New Security Threats

Submitted by on 26 Mar 2013 – 17:21

By Oldrich Martinu, Deputy Director, Europol

In today’s globalised world, the traditional concept of border security has become too narrow. The idea of securing flows, transfers and exchanges seems more appropriate to respond to international economic realities and European security requirements. Mobile technologies and cloud-based services, for example, are rapidly changing the IT landscape of border management services. These technologies offer countries and jurisdictions the possibility of inspecting and validating electronic passports anywhere in the world.

The growing computational power and lower costs of mobile devices make these tools increasingly accessible to nearly every border agent around the world. This will alleviate the cost and complexity of e-passport technology that has left many countries lagging behind in terms of border management and security. But, it will also entail new security risks that will need to be addressed by law enforcement and border control agencies.

Indeed, Europol’s Organized Crime Threat Assessment identified Internet technology as a key facilitator for the vast majority of offline organised crime. In addition to the high-tech cybercriminal activity, payment card fraud, the distribution of child abuse material and audio-visual piracy, extensive use of the Internet now underpins illicit drug synthesis, extraction and distribution, the recruitment and marketing of victims of trafficking in human beings (THB), the facilitation of illegal immigration, the supply of counterfeit commodities, trafficking in endangered species, and many other criminal activities.

Large-scale cross-border criminal networks pose a significant threat to the internal security of the EU and to the safety and livelihood of its people. Cybercrime in particular and the criminal misuse of the Internet by organized crime groups have been declared priority areas by the EU Council of Ministers and Europol is pioneering new responses to these dangers.

Criminal groups operate worldwide and have taken full advantage of technological developments. They are also highly responsive and adaptable to law enforcement control measures. To ensure an effective and co-ordinated response, Europol needs to be equally flexible and innovative, ensuring its methods and tools are up-to-date.

Therefore, Europol maintains state-of-the-art databases and communication channels, offering fast and secure facilities for storing, searching, visualising, analysing and linking key information. Here, analysis becomes the cornerstone of modern intelligence-led law enforcement activities. Europol’s analytical capabilities are based on advanced technology adjusted to the needs of law enforcement. Our analysts use the latest methodologies and techniques to identify missing links in cross-border EU investigations, often providing a breakthrough for Member States’ investigators.

One recent innovation is the development of a sophisticated facility to extract and analyse crime-related information from digitised data – the Computer Forensic Network (CFN), which is in the final stages of implementation. The ability to efficiently identify relevant information from vast amounts of computer data, while preserving its judicial validity, is becoming a crucial weapon in fighting cross-border crime.

Through this new technical solution, Europol can offer a high-quality service to the European law enforcement community, which identifies and processes this information, with dramatic improvements in the quantity of data that can be obtained. This centrally-delivered service is complemented by the possibility of providing hands-on operational support through the local deployment of an expert-operated mobile toolkit for computer data forensics. In addition, the Computer Forensic Network offers a robust technical platform for the European Cyber Crime Centre (EC3), which started to operate at Europol HQ in The Hague in January 2013.

The European Cyber Crime Centre will become the focal point in the fight against cybercrime at EU-level, contributing to faster reactions in the event of a cyber-attack. It will assist Member States and EU Institutions in building operational and analytical capacity for investigations and will reinforce international co-operation with key partners in the fight against cybercrime.

In addition to the analytical and operational support already provided by Europol, the European Cybercrime Centre will serve as the European information hub on cybercrime. The EC3 will develop cutting edge digital forensic capabilities to support investigations in the EU, technical threat analysis, vulnerability scanning and other tools to fight cybercrime. It will contribute to building the capacity of European law enforcement agencies through training, awareness raising and delivering best practices. In addition, the Centre will build a community of experts from all sectors of society to combat and prevent cybercrime.

No crime is as borderless as cybercrime, requiring law enforcement authorities to adopt a co-ordinated and collaborative approach across borders, together with public and private stakeholders alike.

This includes key EU players, like the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), countries outside the EU, international organisations, especially Interpol, Internet governance bodies such as ICANN and private companies, in particular Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other Internet security and financial industries.

This is where the European Cybercrime Centre can add significant value providing governments, businesses and citizens throughout the Union with the tools to tackle cybercrime. This landmark development is another example of the contribution of Europol to the security of the European Union borders by making the best use of cutting-edge technology, ensuring the security of information and fostering competitive intelligence.