18 October 2018
The EU organises activities as part of European Cybsersecurity Month, an issue on which EL PAcCTO is working against organised crime
Changing passwords, configuring privacy settings and purchasing antivirus software are the necessary steps par excellence before browsing the internet. These steps are increasingly important to avoid the risks and dangers to which we are exposed on the internet and which require constantly updated information.
For this reason, each year the European Union organises a variety of activities, as part of European Cybersecurity Month (ECSM), that are dedicated to sharing good practices and promoting cybersecurity among the public and organisations. The European Cybersecurity Agency (ENISA), the European Commission and some 200 partners from the entire region took part in the sixth iteration of this awareness-raising campaign.
“Cyber security is a shared responsibility— Stop. Think. Connect” is the slogan for 2018. It reflects a step prior to entering the digital world, where everything is accessible and instantaneous. Think. Think what we are sharing, what we are writing or what we are clicking on.
Are we aware?
The operations director of ENISA, Steve Purser, told La Vanguardia that it is necessary to “develop electronic common sense”. In other words, “we must behave in a similar manner in the electronic world and in the real world” and not respond or provide information without thinking what it will be used for.
This is an attitude that is taking hold of the public and making us mistrust junk mail and web pages that literally jump onto our screen. In spite of this, many users fall prey to commonplace fraud or theft, which now have their online version.
These are dangers about which Antonio Roma, coordinator of cooperation between judicial systems for EL PAcCTO, spoke, saying that the problem is that “criminals are always going to be one step ahead and find other ways of getting to us”. Real computer crimes are more serious, such as the viruses that enter our equipment through files, or mass attacks that “affect general or even national security,” said Roma.
These attacks are often beyond our control but we must also be warned about them. For this reason, the judicial coordinator of the European Union-funded programme managed by FIIAPP and Expertise France, in cooperation with the Italian-Latin American Institute (IILA) and the Instituto Camoes of Portugal, stresses that campaigns like the EU’s are necessary because they are “measures that we should remember, our knowledge should be updated, the types of threats and the public’s awareness increased”.
With this aim, some 400 activities are being organised in various European countries: talks, user-focused workshops, web seminars, campaigns, etc. Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza and Valencia are some of the cities chosen to alert people to “a growing phenomenon”, according to Roma. In relation to awareness raising, he stated that “it is necessary not to lose sight of the fact that having security is necessary”.
Our privacy, one click away
According to the ENISA report, published at the beginning of the year, the main threat to users is malware or “malicious software”, in which there are viruses that come to us over the internet and in emails without our knowledge.
The next danger in the ranking is computer attacks and phishing or “identity theft”, a scam to collect users’ private data, especially access to their bank accounts.
This information is frequently saved on our equipment. And it is our increased internet activity, either by opening accounts on different sites or publishing our lives on social media, that makes our privacy more and more exposed to these threats.
This risk is increased by the use of mobile phones, it is the price paid for greater accessibility. Antonia Roma emphasised, in relation to this point, the increasingly early contact of children with different devices.
“Previously, the advice was to keep the computer in the living room,” he said. This is outmoded advice regarding safeguarding their privacy in the face of the bullying taking place and, in the worst cases, child pornography. In this situation, “It is always better to alert children to how to defend themselves and that their privacy has great value,” recommended Roma.
What does cooperation offer?
The internet is a worldwide network and although the crimes may be committed from a computer close by, we can also be scammed from servers in other countries. This is where cooperation comes in. According to Roma, it is often unsuccessful, when the money from a theft ends up in “faraway countries that do not provide effective cooperation.”
Despite what are called “opaque jurisdictions”, he believes that “legal cooperation has changed” and that, for example, there are new systems for freezing IP addresses. The time factor is the major obstacle: “getting there too late” when the police do not help or are not trained. Specialisation, in conjunction with technology, are, according to Roma, the tasks that have yet to be addressed in this field.
Cybercrime and cybersecurity are topics that concern EL PAcCTO and on which work is being carried out across the board by all areas of the programme: police, courts and prisons. The EU-funded programme helps Latin American countries to combat organised crime, which also operates over the internet.
The aim is to tackle this issue at the regional level, in addition to the concerns of specific countries, by “implementing operations to see what the problems are, where the bottlenecks are, so that there can be an effective flow of cooperation.”
16 November 2017
The European Commission Programme aims to give technical assistance to countries to guarantee the safety of their citizens
In Latin America there are 23 homicides for every 100 thousand inhabitants. This figure is double the amount for Africa and five times the amount recorded in Asia. What’s more, with only 9 per cent of the world’s population, Latin America accounts for more than 30 per cent of the violent killings committed worldwide each year.[i]
Many of these are related to organised crime. This is one of the reasons why the sense of insecurity experienced by citizens has increased in recent years, making it a priority for these countries.
For many years, different policies to combat organised crime were tried out in Latin America. Some were repressive and others more moderate (such as “mano dura” or “iron fist” and the converse “mano blanda” approach applied in Guatemala from 2007 to 2015), with the feeling that the problem was not effectively dealt with. The reasons are many and varied, but the periodical and “short-term” nature of these policies may explain their ineffectiveness. One of the main lessons learned was the correct use of more global and long-lasting policies to identify and end insecurity in the region.
This is where EL PAcCTO (Europe Latin America Assistance Programme Against Transnational Organised Crime) comes onto the scene. A European Commission programme with pioneering content as it is the first time the whole criminal justice chain is dealt with as a whole. More specifically, it focuses on three areas (police, judicial and fiscal and the prison system) with five transversal work focuses (cyber crime, corruption, human rights, gender and money laundering) and the inclusion of two intrinsically linked projects (AMERIPOL and another project managed by Interpol). It is, therefore, an ambitious and complex project which will try to tackled the problem of organised crime in the most global and effective way possible by providing technical assistance to 18 Latin American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela).
The International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP) and Expertise France (EF) coordinate the project along with two partners, the Italo-Latin American Institute (IILA) and the Camoes Institute.
The Programme will facilitate peer learning, South-South cooperation and the transfer of best European practices, and will be focused on public administrations. To do this, it will have the support of the Spanish General Council of the Judiciary, Ministry of the Interior via the Civil Guard, National Police and Prison Institutions, Ministry of Justice, the Public Prosecutor and their analogues in France, Italy and Portugal.
EL PAcCTO seeks to create concrete guides and tools for international action, approval and cooperation, both regionally and between Latin American countries and EU Member States. This way, it aims to eliminate border using legal and technical solutions that make Latin America a free and safe space united against organised crime.
The Programme is trying to respond now to all of the urgent demands from the countries because the aim of the programme is to build a safer society which benefits everyone. This is why it is important to increase social awareness about the dangers of organised crime. It is a matter of great importance to guarantee people’s rights, freedom and lives.
[i] Highest murder rates in the world by city (2016), World Atlas. Available at http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/most-dangerous-cities-in-the-world.html
María Jesús Martín is a Communication Technician at EL PAcCTO (Europe Latin America Assistance Programme Against Transnational Organised Crime) comes onto the scene.
21 July 2017
The project has a budget of €12 million and will cover 30 countries in four years to combat the destructive and massive heroin business
For decades Afghanistan has been positioning itself as the primary international exporter of heroin, a deadly drug associated with the proliferation of organised crime and a massive business that moves billions of euros annually.
Producing 4,800 tonnes of opium in 2016 and with more than 200,000 hectares under cultivation, according to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the country is situated at the nerve centre of the zone known as the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran), the origin of most of the opiates consumed in Europe.
In line with the EU Drugs Strategy 2013-2020, this week the EU-ACT Action Against Drugs and Organised Crime project was launched, in Brussels, as the third phase of an initiative that fights drug trafficking and organised crime in relation to two contexts:
Supply reduction: this involves strengthening legal and transnational police cooperation to attack the major drug trafficking networks.
Demand reduction: efforts are also aimed at prevention of drug consumption and improvement of drug addiction treatment.
Both fronts are essential. As explained by the leader of the project, Thomas Carter, “they are two sides of the same coin: there needs to be equilibrium between repressive policies that pursue trafficking and organised crime and those focussed on demand reduction”.
More than thirty countries
From Afghanistan, the Heroin Route traditionally crossed the Balkans to reach Europe. However, pathways have multiplied and now pass through some thirty countries using various routes:
Balkans Route: This links Afghanistan with Iran and then passes through Turkey. It is the shortest distance and the most direct overland route to European consumption markets. It has been used since the 1980s.
Southern Route: in recent years, large heroin shipments loaded in the ports of Iran and Pakistan have attracted attention.
Northern Route: from northern Afghanistan, heroin is sent to the large consumption markets of Central Asia, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
Caucasus Route: drugs produced in the Golden Crescent are transported from Iran to Turkey, passing through Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
South Route: this passes through East Africa to reach the EU from the south.
The project focusses on more than 30 beneficiary countries with very different needs and five strategic zones: Central Asia, Southern Caucasus, Ukraine, Asia and East Africa.
Spanish Civil Guard colonel and project co-director Manuel Marión highlights the flexibility of the initiative: “One of the most acute needs of Kyrgyzstan is to train prosecutors and police in using special investigative techniques aimed at drugs, such as controlled deliveries”.
Nonetheless, “it may happen that Tanzania needs to learn about the European experience with coastal surveillance, because the heroin arrives on ships” indicates Marión.
Law enforcement and legal action are generally conducted at the national level, which makes it difficult to eradicate a global phenomenon like this one. Therefore the project places special emphasis on coordination between the police forces of all the drug-transit countries. Transnational and transregional cooperation is essential.
A billion-euro business
Tom Carter describes one of the main difficulties in eradicating heroin trafficking: corruption. “We’re talking about billions of euros, and the issue is that the closer it is to the market, the more money is involved and the more expensive the product is. For example, one kilo of opium may cost €2,000 in Afghanistan and over time, as it approaches Europe, this may reach €25,000 to €40,000”.
“It’s a massive and invasive business. It moves so much money that it easily corrupts. A police officer or customs agent in any country outside Europe, for example in Central Asia or Africa, is very tempted when someone offers €200 to not open a truck”. It is a question of investing in development because “in a country undermined by corrupt officials in its institutions, the project becomes useless”, explains Carter.
The key: influencing policies
One of the main objectives of the project is to help the authorities and security forces of these countries to identify and pursue the major traffickers who handle large quantities of drugs.
However, work is being done in parallel to find alternatives to prison, such as drug treatment. “We have neither the budget nor the time to fix everything, but we can contribute our experiences from the perspective of the EU. Perceptions must be changed so that people see a drug addict as a victim and not as a criminal”, explains Carter.
For the next four years, FIIAPP will be managing this project, which has a budget of €12,000,000 funded by the European Commission, and will be implemented by experts from Spain’s Ministry of the Interior, Italy’s Carabinieri and the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA).