A group of our MA Cyber Crime & Terrorism students, Georgina Butler, Luke Johnston, Matthew Bryan, Nina Kelly, Seren Thomas and Vanessa Montinho, recently took a trip to EUROPOL HQ – read their blog post below.
“We attended the Annual Digital Cross-Border Investigations Workshop organised by the SIRIUS Team at Europol Headquarters. We received a warm welcome from the staff at Europol HQ and we were able to mingle with the other attending members in the beautifully designed building that definitely felt fit for an international security organisation. The workshop took place in one of their conference rooms, a neatly placed welcome package waiting on every seat.
The workshop aimed to gather students and professionals across Europe to discuss the current challenges of online investigations. The speakers came from a background of multiple disciplines and sectors including academic, law, and law enforcement. It was a chance to get an excellent understanding of the investigation process from different perspectives.
The workshop was organised in a way that provided us with a logical and informed overview of the investigative landscape, beginning with the online components of crime, going through the process of investigation and evidence gathering, and ending with the legal issues.
In the first session, Dr Lella Nouri, an Associate Professor at Swansea University, gave an engaging presentation on ‘The Online Components of Crime: the Example of Terrorism’. We learned about the different ways extremists and terrorists use the Internet and how the emergence of this technology allowed these actors to innovate their strategies and expand their reach and influence. This session demonstrated how the online space is an important dimension of certain crimes and it perfectly set the scene for the upcoming presentations.
In the second session of the workshop, Ms Lorena Carthy-Wilmot talked about the work she does as a Special Investigator at the Police in Norway. With the widespread use of the Internet and online platforms, there is a lot of data available online, which increased the opportunities for Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT). In this session, we learned what OSINT is, how it is conducted in the context of a police investigation, and a broad range of OSINT sources and tools.
After learning about the process of producing intelligence by collecting, evaluating, and analysing publicly available information, we dived into the importance of improving access to electronic evidence, both publicly and non-publicly available, during criminal investigations with Mr Tomas Penna. Therefore, in the third session titled “SIRIUS: Cross-Border Access to Electronic Evidence”, the Senior Agent for Policy Research and Outreach at SIRIUS Team Europol presented the SIRIUS Project. This session introduced us to the work that the SIRIUS team conducts; how they collaborate with EU member states and non-member states; the perspectives of different stakeholders regarding the digital evidence situation.
Next was time for lunch, of which the Europol canteen presented many delicious options. This short break also gave us more time to talk with the other students and staff present at the workshop over customary coffee. Although not the tea we are used to, it was nice to chat with like-minded individuals while we sipped our coffees.
Following lunch, the last two sessions focused on the Law dimension of the issue. The fourth session titled “Citizens’ Rights & Data Protection” was presented by Ms Els de Busser, an Assistant Professor for Cyber Security Governance at Leiden University. This session discussed legal definitions and delved into legal rights surrounding online data. As the majority of us came from a different academic discipline, it was insightful and provided us with a great foundation of Law knowledge!
Last but not least, Mr Manuel Quintanar Díez, a Law Professor at Complutense University of Madrid, gave us an insightful presentation about the admissibility of E-Evidence and Future Perspectives. Specifically, we learned about the prosecutability of traffic and location data in the electronic communications sector to combat serious crime. This was a great opportunity to learn more about legislation and case law at the European Union level, specifically in Spain.
As there were plenty of opportunities for participants to ask questions, it was a constructive environment for us to build upon the topics we had covered in our MA course in a practical context.
Overall, this was an incredible and unique experience for which we are all very grateful to be given such an amazing opportunity to get involved with such a prestigious organisation and learn so much about the topic we care so much for. We would like to, once again, thank Europol, Swansea University, and Dr Lella Nouri for the incredible opportunity.