NCA/FBI/Europol launch global cyber crime-busters, J-CAT

News by Tim Ring

The UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) has joined forces with the FBI and Europol to launch a new global crime fighting team, led by the NCA's Andy Archibald.

J-CAT (the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce) was launched today, 1 September, to gather national police intelligence, then drive global action against the key cyber criminals and threats it identifies - from underground forums and malware coding, to banking Trojans, botnets, crime-as-a-service, online fraud and other top-end cyber crimes.

Based in The Hague, J-CAT is described as the first ever permanent cyber crime taskforce – though it has an initial six months to prove its worth – and is headed by Archibald, deputy director of the UK NCA's National Cyber Crime Unit.

He will have a team of up to 18 cyber experts drawn from the countries involved in J-CAT – currently the UK and US, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Austria and Canada.

Australia and Colombia have also committed to the initiative.

Archibald issued a statement saying: “There are many challenges faced by law enforcement agencies with regards to cyber criminals and cyber attacks. This is why there needs to be a truly holistic and collaborative approach taken when tackling them.

“The J-CAT will, for the first time, bring together a coalition of countries across Europe and beyond to co-ordinate the operational response to the common current and emerging global cyber threats faced by J-CAT members.”

Troels Oerting, head of the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), stressed the role of private-sector security firms and government agencies in sourcing the crime intelligence J-CAT will need.

“The goal is to prevent cyber crime, to disrupt it, catch crooks and seize their illegal profits,” he said. “That goal cannot be reached by law enforcement alone, but will require a consolidated effort from many stakeholders in our global village. But the J-CAT will do its part of the necessary ‘heavy-lifting'. I am confident we will see practical tangible results very soon.”

The importance of police and private firms joining forces on crime intelligence was also picked up by cyber crime expert Charlie McMurdie, former head of the Met Police e-Crime Unit and now a senior crime adviser with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Analysing J-CAT's launch, she told “This new unit is a physical hub, bringing together European and wider partners, which I think is probably long overdue and much needed, and should deliver some real significant benefits.

“Bringing existing resources together is a benefit, but the greater benefit is that unit bringing in the wider capability within industry.

“Most of the intelligence and most of the infrastructure and most of the capability around these types of cases exists within industry - and you need to capitalise on that benefit. Private sector firms need to play a much greater part, and law enforcement needs to be open and actively progressing that engagement.”

McMurdie acknowledged the UK's leading role in the taskforce but said that was not the whole story: “I think it's great that the UK has a seat at the table and is leading that capability, but the benefit of that sort of unit is bringing together trusted partners and joining everything up, no matter who leads it.

“Whereas we had a virtual taskforce in the UK this is a physical taskforce with all the various partners together.”

She also welcomed the global dimension of J-CAT. “Everything needs to have that global connectivity now. Ultimately when you take on these high-level cyber investigations there's bound to be some sort of international nexus to them – whether it's money flow, IP infrastructure, suspects or victims.”

David Emm, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, also welcomed the launch of J-CAT as another step in the trend for law enforcement to become more international – following Interpol's Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) and the launch of EC3 in January 2013.

He told via email: “The internet allows cyber criminals to operate across geo-political borders – they don't need to be resident in the same country as their victims. They can launch an attack from one country, using servers spread across other countries and using anonymous internet-based financial services to launder the money they steal.

“Law enforcement agencies, by contrast, have to work within specific geo-political boundaries. This is why international co-operation is so important. In recent years we have seen several initiatives to help overcome these limitations. This new initiative is clearly a further step in this direction.”

Europol said: “Police forces across the world face similar crimes and criminal targets. For that reason, more than with any other type of crime, it is crucial to share intelligence and align priorities.”

Crime & Threats

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