EU's new cybercrime taskforce set to launch

News by Doug Drinkwater

Andy Archibald, deputy head of the UK's National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU), is to chair a new cyber-crime taskforce based out of the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) in The Hague in Netherlands.

Coming a week after the UK's National Crime Agency led the take-down of the destructive Shylock Trojan and a month after ‘Operation Tovar' against the CryptoLocker and Gameover Zeus botnets, has learned that the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT) will be piloted from September 1 for a period of six months.

The group will be headed by Archibald as the “strategic lead”, and its board will comprise senior figures from EC3, the FBI, the NCA and Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). The group will focus on cross-border cybercrime investigations against botnets, banking Trojans and the darknet, among other operations into cyber-crime.

Cyber-crime police investigators from Austria, France, USA, UK, France, Holland, Germany, France and Italy will reside permanently at the centre and will be charged with building criminal cases, while other investigators are expected to come as far afield as Australia, Canada and Columbia.

The European Union's own European Cybercrime Task Force (EUCTF) – which is made up of the heads of cyber-crime units from all the EU member states as well as Europol, Eurojust and the European Commission - will monitor progress of the pilot.

“We're really testing this out as a learning exercise,” Paul Gillen, head of operations at the European Cyber Crime Centre, told SC. “The more you practise at doing something the better – and luckier – you get at doing it.”

“We're pushing an open door, the cyber-crime 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.”

Should the pilot prove successful, the eventual aim could be to accommodate investigators from all 28 EU member states. Specific terms on the principles of the group are currently being drafted.

“We don't have too many rules at the moment; we will probably discover issues as we go along and address them," Gillen added.

The EC head of operations hopes that the centre will go some way toward the better policing of cyber-crime.

Saying that investigators have to “overcome traditional policing views, as the internet has no borders”, Gillen added: “The traditional form of policing just doesn't work. We have to think and work differently.”

Alan Woodward, a visiting professor at the department of computing at the University of Surrey and academic adviser to EC3, said that the move makes a ‘great deal' of sense given EC3's emergence as a centre of excellence and said that permanent investigators would give members states the opportunity to ‘absorb' information on the ground and take it back to their own countries.

“There's an opportunity for [investigators] to absorb some practicality on the ground and take it back and do it locally,” Woodward told SC, further comparing the move to learning a foreign language while stationed in the same country.

He also praised the ability for investigators to work together when based out of the same building - “one of the key things in cybercrime is better intelligence sharing” – and said that Archibald's appointment is a sign that the UK has much expertise to offer.

“I think it shows that the UK has considerable depth of expertise, and that we're willing to share that about,” he said.

Andy Archibald and the NCA could not be contacted for comment at the time of writing.

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