EU Launches Cybercrime Taskforce for Cross Border Investigations

The European Union is set to roll out an international cybercrime task force for a six-month investigations trial. It will coordinate investigations across Europe, as well as with several other countries, including the United States, Canada, and Australia.

According to Govinfosecurity, Andy Archibald, the deputy head of the UK National Crime Agency’s National Cyber Crime Unit, will lead the Netherlands-based taskforce, which will start its operations at the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) headquarters in The Hague.

SC Magazine meanwhile reports that the aim of the group will be to “focus on cross-border cybercrime investigations against botnets, banking Trojans and the darknet.”

Named J-CAT (The EU Joint CyberCrime Action Taskforce), the team will start a six-month trial on September 1. The process phase of the test will be monitored by European Union’s (European Cybercrime Task Force).

Head of operations at the European Cyber Crime Center Paul Gillen stated:

“We’re really testing this out as a learning exercise, the more you practise at doing something the better – and luckier – you get at doing it. We’re pushing an open door, the cybercrime investigation community agree that this is the only way they can work. We will have to suck it and see. We will have some success and some failures along the way, but we must work together if we are to make the internet a safe place.”

“We don’t have too many rules at the moment; we will probably discover issues as we go along and address them.”

The taskforce is going to assist investigators in advancing cases and filing local charges against criminals working offshore. Given that cybercrime today routes across borders, experts say it shouldn’t be a complication for law enforcement agencies to operate across borders as well.

Coordinating investigations in the EU

The EC3 opening last year was a defining point in the EU’s battle against cybercrime, and providing protection to businesses and citizens against cyber threats.

It is serving as the European information hub on developing and implementing digital forensic capabilities to support EU cybercrime investigations, as well as building capacity to fight cybercrime through awareness and training, including delivering best practices on investigations.

Since the opening, the Commission has helped in several botnet takedowns, supported investigations into sophisticated attacks against the financial sector, and disrupted criminal forums. EC3 has assisted the coordination of 19 major cybercrime operations, which includes payment fraud investigations, as well as child exploitation probes, according to a statement by the Commission.

Troels Oerting took charge of EC3’s activities, and he has been “proud and satisfied” with EC3’s achievements.

“However, we cannot rest on our laurels. I am especially worried about the increasingly complex forms of malware that are surfacing, along with more technologically advanced cyber scams, and the so-called ‘sextortion’ of minors,” Orting said.

“We have only seen the tip of the iceberg, but EC3, backed by our valued stakeholders and partners, is dedicated to supporting Member States’ future frontline cybercrime operations.”

The organization also predicts some future cybercrime trends, including an increase in attacks on organizations using cloud-based services and cloud service products for spying and extortion.

The creation of the J-CAT taskforce will assist the existing investigators in advancing future cases more quickly, as well as detect and file charges against criminals working cross borders. The new group will also foster stronger working relationships and augment the drive to remove the complications pertaining to international data sharing practices.

cybercrime taskforce

Troels Oerting (left), head of EC3. Photo: Security & Defence Agenda / Flickr

J-CAT’s View for the Future

The cybercrime taskforce will face a challenge from hostile countries that are unwilling to cooperate or serve as a safe haven for cyber criminals; and cybercriminals will also utilize war-zones where the team has limited ability to respond.

J-CAT’s success will be measured by how long it takes to identify and stop criminal activities after a case is launched. The taskforce along with the existing investigators would have an opportunity to gather information in hostile regions and take it back to the headquarters to work upon.

Part of the taskforce’s responsibilities would be to document roadblocks and procedural problems that could become a barrier to case investigations, and seek changes in the EU legislation for overcoming them. This will also be a battle against cyber criminals earning millions of dollars and taking their proceeds away safely.

The bottom line: the formation of EC3 is pushing for the development of a borderless cybercrime investigation unit, and should the plan be successful, the outcome could be border-free accommodation of investigators from all EU member states.

Most governments recognize a need to tackle international cybercrime but what’s your take on this? Is it satisfactory or does it go too far?