14 Apr 2015

Interpol plays cyber crooks at their own game

Cyber crime is global. I’ve watched in underground online forums as credit card scammers from Nigeria have given advice to bank fraudsters in the UK, who in turn offer their services to computer virus writers in Ukraine.

There is, to my knowledge, no forum in the world where police from as many different countries would swap tips so readily.

Information sharing does exist, but the crooks’ hangouts have an advantage over the police ones: criminals expect everyone to rip them off, and mutual distrust provides them a common starting point.


The police, by contrast, often try to start from a position of trust, fearful of disappointment at every turn.

Interpol’s Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI), unveiled this week in Singapore, partly aims to address this.

It’s pulled together private companies like Kaspersky Lab and Trend Micro along with police from around the world, hoping face-to-face contact will give the trust a boost.

No matter how smart the technology gets, it’s often human relationships that dictate success.

The approach seems to be working. Last week, in collaboration with Microsoft, the IGCI shut down a criminal network thought to have infected as many as 700,000 computers worldwide.

One of those involved in the operation described to me how Russian and US law enforcement synchronised their crackdowns to maximum effect, something it’s hard to imagine happening at street level.

Interpol’s idea is to use the centre to tackle new trends in crime (whether virtual currencies, trading fraud, or high-tech counterfeiting) and bring in the companies with the expertise to tackle it, while also training police from around the world at the same time.

It’s a noble aim; but with cyber crime now combining the crowd-sourcing tactics of Kickstarter with the speed and agility of Silicon Valley start-ups, success is far from guaranteed.​

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