As the former Executive Director of Europol, Rob Wainwright knows a thing or two about fighting crime. Under his stewardship, Europol was transformed into a world-class security institution, perfectly placed to meet the cybersecurity threats of the 21st century.
Speaking at CeBIT Australia 2018, he shared his insights into the challenges now faced by international police forces. Specifically, he talked about how data and technology (which Wainwright calls “the new oil in the platform economy”) can help identify and respond to cross-border criminal and terrorist activity.
How technology is powering crime
Wainwright says there is now a dynamic security threat. He cites how international terrorist groups such as Islamic State (IS) are setting out to establish a virtual caliphate as well as a literal one. And he highlights how today’s bank robbers no longer wear balaclavas or use shotguns, but are instead applying technological innovations and capability (principally malware) on an unprecedented scale. Bank card access and even remote ATM operation is now within reach of these sophisticated trans-national syndicates. One operation recently broken up by Europol had netted a staggering $1.2 billion.
Criminal and terrorist organisations have long sought to use technology to their advantage (think of IS’s use of social media to spread propaganda and recruit members), but it is the increasing professionalisation of these groups that Wainwright says is one of the biggest challenges cybersecurity needs to tackle.
On a social level, the rise of cryptocurrencies not only allows criminal groups to launder money, but it also allows ransomware to flourish by providing built-in anonymity. Similarly, the way the dark web makes hundreds of thousands of illicit offerings readily available to buy or rent supports a burgeoning marketplace of illegal activity. And now state actors such as Russia are actively getting involved, the task facing international security forces grows ever harder.
But this isn’t simply a social problem to be dealt with by governments...
The impact of cybercrime on businesses
Wainwright says an estimated 55% of businesses have been impacted by crypto-jacking like “denial of service” attacks. And while the Internet of Things opens up many fantastic opportunities for businesses, the fact that many online devices only have low-grade security protection means many more companies are at risk.
Using big data to develop cybersecurity
But just as criminal and terrorist groups are using technological advances, so are the organisations fighting them. Wainwright calls it “a race against time”, but it’s one that is winnable.
By using big data, Europol has been able to take down marketplaces on the dark web, show how criminal activity is being coordinated across countries (and so develop strategies to combat it) and build partnerships for maximum effectiveness. Wainwright foresees public organisations like Europol partnering with private companies to harness the power of data analytics to best meet the challenges posed by alarming, crime-enabling developments like self-learning malware that can overrun traditional security systems.
In cybersecurity terms, data is knowledge – and knowing as much as possible is the key to effective cybersecurity.
Data – and its role in connecting the Internet of Things – isn’t only a crime-fighting weapon. It has become an essential business tool. Making sure you use it safely is vital. Download our Cybersecurity and the internet of things e-book to keep your business safe.