INTERPOL carries out full-scale drone countermeasure exercise

INTERPOL and the Norwegian police have carried out a three-day exercise to test and evaluate anti-drone measures in a secure air space in the Norwegian capital.

The exercise, carried out in real-life conditions in Oslo in late September, brought together law enforcement, academia and industry experts from Europe, Israel and the United States to test and assess 17 drone countermeasures to ensure the safety of an airport environment through the detection, monitoring and identification of the drones and their pilots.

Such systems are becoming vital to ensure the security of airports and airspace, and also the protection of air exclusion zones above cities, prisons and essential infrastructures.

All measures were evaluated and classified in accordance with specific criteria. The results will be integrated into an INTERPOL framework of anti-drone measures, access to which will be granted to the organisms responsible for policing from the 194 member countries of Interpol, so as to create a worldwide platform for collaboration and the exchange of information. 

The exercise was held at Gardermoen Airport in Oslo while the airport continued to operate normally. Because of the complexity of the exercise, the event required close collaboration between the entity responsible for the management of the airport (Avinor), the Norwegian Communications Authority, the Directorate-General for Civil Aviation, and the organisation for unmanned air systems UAS Norway, in order to guarantee that all the systems and tests complied with the required standard and did not affect the operations of the airport itself.

In addition to the exercises, workshops and presentations concerning the drone incursions were also held with a view to gathering evidence. During these sessions, the participants exchanged best practices and discussed potential future solutions to the problems posed by drone incursions.

Anti-drone measures are essential to protect airspace and will become more and more important as member countries proceed to regulate the use of drones and the management of airspace.

While measures may serve to detect, identify and locate drones within a specific area, in many countries there is no legislation in force to enable the authorities to intercept a drone that is in full flight. This situation constitutes a huge challenge for the organisms responsible for enforcing the law, for public administrations and those responsible for the management of airspace, and points to a clear need to better understand the danger posed by drones and to develop guidelines and mechanisms to transmit the information received.

INTERPOL Innovation Centre is participating in the European-funded Project Courageous, and aims to prepare a European framework for the selection, testing and evaluation of anti-drone measures for policing purposes.

In May 2020 the Innovation Centre published its Intervention framework for incidents involving drones, intended for front-line teams and digital forensic laboratories, and brings together every year key participants from all over the world to form part of Interpol’s drone platform.

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The police authorities in the United Kingdom call for an end to the “macho canteen culture” found within the police

The police authorities in the United Kingdom have called for an end to the macho, sexist, misogynist and homophobic “canteen culture” found within the police in order to try to regain the trust of society as a whole.

John Apter, the National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, who represents over 130,000 police officers, has recognised that in the police forces in the United Kingdom, women officers are subjected to sexist nicknames and disparaging remarks, and added that such behaviour had to be brought to an end, according to a report published a few days ago in the British newspaper the Sunday Times.

Apter added that it is essential to maintain public trust in the police, and that it therefore had to be accepted that there was a problem as the only way to deal with it.

After Wayne Couzens was found guilty of the murder of Sarah Everard, aged 33, the country’s police forces were described as institutionally misogynist by a former head of the Nottinghamshire police, Susannah Fish. Fish stated that she had herself been sexually assaulted by colleagues while working as a police officer. Cultural changes are never easy, and this is not true only in the case of the police, but just because a situation is difficult to change does not mean that an attempt should not be made. Taking no action is not an option.

Wayne Couzens was sentenced to life imprisonment for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Sarah Everard, after she had disappeared while she was returning home from a friend’s house in South London. At the time, Couzens was an on-duty police officer and used his police badge and handcuffs to kidnap her.

Apter declared that this terrible murder had damaged society’s trust in the police. Everybody in the police needed to tackle this problem. It was not enough to say that these were the actions of an evil man who deserved to rot in jail.

It had to be shown, not only through words but also through actions, that sexism and misogyny have absolutely no place in any police force.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct announced that five police officers from four different regional police forces were facing disciplinary measures for messages shared on the social networks concerning Everard’s murder.

John Apter added that misogyny was a problem not only for women, but for everyone. Only too often such incidents were passed over in silence, and such inaction meant officers were failing each other and wider society.

There was a need to consign to the history books this canteen culture where sexist nicknames and derogatory remarks were made. When joking crossed the line to become sexist, derogatory or homophobic it ceased to be joking, and this is when it was necessary to react.

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Safe online shopping awareness campaign for the upcoming high consumer season

Europol is launching the #SellSafe awareness campaign in November as part of a series of consumer protection and e-commerce initiatives in the run-up to the peak shopping season.

Online shoppers need to be more vigilant than ever as organised crime groups continually adapt their online fraud methods to defraud both citizens and e-commerce companies.

Since the start of the pandemic, many businesses have had to go online to continue their activities. At the same time, with people now using online services several times a week and increasingly shopping online, there is a much greater opportunity for attack by cybercriminals.

Even when online shopping has been made secure through the implementation of new technologies, such as secure customer authentication or two-factor authentication, cybercriminals still find ways to steal money from online shoppers.

Europol, together with the Merchant Risk Council and participating countries, has launched the #SellSafe, campaign, following the success of last year’s campaign, to highlight key tactics to combat online fraud. The aim of the campaign is to make e-commerce safer by promoting secure online shopping methods and helping new vendors to open their first online shop by minimising the risk of cyber-attacks.

Participating countries will promote the campaign through their social media channels using the hashtag #SellSafe to help consumers understand the risks of e-commerce fraud.

To protect consumers, Europol has provided a number of useful tips to try to keep them one step ahead of fraudsters and ensure they do not steal money.

Tips for protecting an e-business:

• Make sure all employees are aware of fraud issues affecting online shops.

• Stay up to date on the types of payment fraud that affect businesses and have the tools to prevent them. Your payments organisation will have details on the types of payment fraud.

• Get to know your customers so you can verify their payments.

Tips for online shoppers:

• Never send your card number, PIN or any other card information to anyone by email.

• Never send money to anyone you do not know.

• Always keep all documents related to your online purchases.

• If you don’t buy anything, never send your card details to anyone.

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12 arrested for involvement in malware attacks against critical infrastructure

A total of 12 people who wreaked havoc around the world with ransomware attacks against critical infrastructure have been arrested as a result of a law enforcement operation involving at least eight countries.

The attacks are believed to have affected more than 1,800 victims in 71 countries. These cybercriminals are known to specifically target large corporations, making it easier for them to optimise their business.

The arrests took place at the end of October in Ukraine and Switzerland. Most of these suspects are considered high-value targets because they are being investigated in parallel in multiple high-profile cases in different jurisdictions.

As a result of the law enforcement action, more than USD 52,000 in cash was seized, along with 5 luxury vehicles. Computer forensic experts are currently examining various electronic devices to obtain evidence and identify new investigative leads.

All suspects had different roles in these highly organised criminal organisations. Some of these criminals used multiple mechanisms to exploit network vulnerabilities, such as various attacks, SQL injections, stolen credentials and fishing emails with malicious attachments.

Once on the network, some of these cybercriminals would focus on moving with criminal intent, deploying malware like Trickbot, or post-exploitation frameworks like Cobalt Strike  or PowerShell Empire, in order to remain undetected and gain further access.

The criminals would then enter the compromised systems undetected, sometimes for months, and investigate further weaknesses in the networks, before moving on to monetise the infection by deploying ransomware. These criminals have been known to deploy ransomware like LockerGoga, MegaCortex and Dharma, among others.

The effects of the ransomware attacks were devastating, as the criminals had had time to scan computer networks undetected.
 They then presented a ransom note to the victim, demanding that he pay the attackers in bitcoins in exchange for decryption keys.

It is suspected that several of the individuals arrested were responsible for laundering the ransom payments: they would channel the ransom payments in bitcoins through various services, before collecting the illicit proceeds.

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150 arrested and 26 million euros seized in a police operation on the Dark Web

Police forces from around the world have arrested 150 individuals involved in the sale of illicit goods on the Dark Web as part of a coordinated international operation involving nine countries.

This operation led to the seizure of over €26.7 million (US$31 million) in cash and virtual currencies, together with 234 kg of drugs and 45 firearms. The drugs confiscated include 152 kg of amphetamines, 27 kg of opioids and over 25,000 pills of Ecstasy.

This operation, christened Dark HuntTOR, was planned with a series of separate but complementary actions in Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, with coordination efforts led by Europol and Eurojust.

The Dark HuntTOR operation arose from the closing down at the beginning of the year of DarkMarket, the world’s largest illegal market on the Dark Web.  At the time the German authorities arrested the suspected operator of this market and gained control of its criminal infrastructure, which provided police investigators from around the world with a large amount of evidence. Since then Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) has been gathering information to identify key targets.

As a result, 150 vendors and purchasers who had taken part in tens of thousands of sales of illicit goods were arrested all over Europe and the United States. Some of these suspects were considered by Europol as major targets.

The arrests concerned took place in the United States (65), Germany (47), the United Kingdom (24), Italy (4), the Netherlands (4), France (3), Switzerland (2) and Bulgaria (1).  Various investigations are still under way to identify more persons behind the hidden accounts of the Dark Web.

Within the scope of this operation, the Italian authorities also closed down the markets of the Dark Web markets DeepSea and Berlusconi, which together featured over 100,000 advertisements for illegal products. Four directors were arrested and cryptocurrencies worth €3.6 million were confiscated.

Europol’s EC3 agency facilitated the exchange of information within the framework of the Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT) based at Europol’s central headquarters in The Hague in the Netherlands.

Europol’s Assistant Executive Director of Operations, Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, affirmed that the aim of operations such as Dark HuntTOR is to warn the criminals who operate on the Dark Web that the international police community has the means and the global networks to unmask them and to hold them to account for their illegal activities, even in this part of the Web.

Buying on the Dark Web involves various risks:

• Purchasers may find themselves with more than they had bargained for. Opioids containing fentanyl, for example, have provoked a wave of fatal overdoses. Nor is there any guarantee that purchasers will actually receive the products or services they have bought, since there are tricksters operating on every digital street-corner.

• Purchasing arrangements may be exposed to a malware attacks prepared to cause ravages in purchasers’ databases.

• There is a real risk of prosecution. Using the Dark Web for illegal activities is a criminal offence and can lead to prison sentences in various countries.

Are you thinking of buying illegal products anonymously on the Dark Web?

Think twice. The Dark Web is no longer as dark as some criminal would like it to be. Police forces have got used to working in this field and have access to a wide range of different techniques to identify the purchasers and vendors of illegal goods.

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Hundreds of offences detected in a global operation against marine pollution

In March, 300 law enforcement agencies from 67 countries joined forces against marine pollution during the third global 30 Days at Sea operation. Europol and Frontex coordinated the European leg of the operation as part of the EMPACT action plan on environmental crime, while INTERPOL coordinated the global activities.

The actions led to the identification of numerous crimes ranging from illegal discharge to waste trafficking and the investigation of thousands of suspects worldwide.

Frontline action followed five months of intelligence collection and analysis, enabling participating countries to identify hotspots and targets.

The simultaneous actions led to:

• 34,000 inspections at sea and inland waterways, coastal areas and ports.

1,600 marine pollution offences detected in total.

• 500 illegal acts of pollution committed at sea, including oil discharges, illegal shipbreaking and sulphur emissions from vessels.

• 1,000 pollution offences in coastal areas and rivers, including illegal discharges of contaminants.

• 130 cases of waste trafficking.

By using INTERPOL’s wide range of databases and analytical capabilities, countries were able to connect pollution crime with other serious crimes such as fraud, corruption, tax evasion, money laundering, piracy, and illegal fishing.

With many enforcement resources being reassigned to tackle the pandemic, criminals have been quick to exploit growing vulnerabilities in different crime areas, including environmental crime. Inspections uncovered typical forms of marine pollution crime, from vessel discharges to waste trafficking by sea, but also criminal trends that have been growing amid the pandemic. These trends included COVID-19 disposable items such as masks and gloves, with 13 cases involving medical waste opened as a result of the operation.

A major criminal network trafficking plastic waste between Europe and Asia was exposed, triggering cooperation between authorities from both regions. So far, 22 suspects have been arrested and thousands of tonnes of waste have been prevented from being illegally shipped to Asia. It is highly likely that the waste would have likely been dumped there, contaminating soils and generating considerable marine litter.

Several countries from Europe, Asia and Africa reported illegal shipments of contaminated or mixed metal waste falsely declared as metal scraps. In one case, the Italian Coast Guard seized and prevented 11,000 tonnes of metal scraps mixed with plastic, rubber, mineral oil and other contaminants from being transported to Turkey. Namibia, the Philippines and Croatia also reported cases of illegal waste shipments from Europe.

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Do black American motorists face heavier fines for speeding than the white ones in the United States?

In 25 States of the United States, motorists accused of speeding can face either a criminal charge or a traffic offence, and the type of prosecution brought is chosen at the discretion of police officers and the courts.

Using speeding data from 18 counties in Virginia over a period of nine years, researchers found large racial disparities in who was condemned for a criminal offence.

Black motorists stopped for speeding were nearly twice as likely as white drivers to be condemned for a criminal charge when their speed had been in the range qualifying for the most serious charge.

Among the motorists who had been driving at excess speed and who were condemned for a criminal offence, black drivers were likelier than white ones to be accused of a minor crime instead of a traffic offence.

In general, police officers reduced the possible accusation from a charge to a traffic offence when they were on duty in counties in which black motorists represented a larger share of drivers than in other counties.

Among drivers accused of an offence by law officers, black drivers were likelier than white ones to be condemned for a criminal charge by the courts.

So why was this the case?

  • Black motorists were less likely than white motorists to attend an obligatory court hearing.
  • Black motorists were less likely than white motorists to have a lawyer present in court.
  • Black motorists had a higher probability than white motorists of living in areas where drivers were allowed to pay in advance for charges rather than appearing in court (which results in an automatic condemnation for a criminal charge).

These three factors explained approximately four fifths of the racial disparities in the convictions.

The majority of motorists condemned for a traffic charge did not go to prison, but there are other repercussions.

  • Applications for jobs, housing and other services involve asking candidates to show whether they have a criminal record.
  • A criminal charge can count as part of an individual’s previous record if the person is sentenced for a new offence, a factor that increases the penalty for this charge.
  • Apart from this, the average fine and legal costs imposed for a criminal charge in Virginia were up to 120 dollars more than a traffic offence.
  • Some states suspend the driving licence of persons who do not pay the fines and associated taxes. (Virginia abandoned this practice in 2019.)
  • A criminal condemnation adds negative points to the driving record of an individual and can increase the cost of motor insurance.

Politicians could perhaps find fairer ways of enforcing the speeding laws.

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Do we need to rethink the US intelligence strategy in regard to domestic terrorism?

Changes in the perception of the terrorist threat may bring the United States at a turning point. After two decades of an almost exclusive focus on the terrorist threat posed by the world jihadist organization and its supporters, the intelligence effort is now turning towards tackling domestic violent extremism. This may require rethinking the intelligence strategy.

Since September 11, the primary goal of domestic intelligence gathering has been to prevent terrorist attacks. This meant discovering and thwarting terrorist plots before they could be carried out. Fear of further September 11 attacks or even more alarming terrorist scenarios made prevention essential.

Rapid overseas action dispersed Al Qaeda’s leadership and intense international intelligence efforts reduced the possibility of new September 11. The United States has not suffered any other large-scale terrorist attacks from abroad. In contrast, self-produced jihadists, inspired by jihadist ideology, carried out low-level, albeit sometimes lethal, attacks. Most of these were isolated incidents. Moreover, most of the plots and almost all the attacks involved a single perpetrator who acted alone with limited capabilities and resources.

The campaign against self-produced jihadists is not a model for dealing with domestic violent extremists.

Authorities discovered and thwarted more than 80% of jihadist plots because local community councils, informant information or Internet data alerted the FBI or local police. Those who appeared to intend to commit violence were the subject of covert operations. In the twenty years after the September 11, U.S. jihadists killed a total of 105 people, including 49 in a single shooting at an Orlando nightclub. While each death is tragic, this was far less than many feared in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

Unlike jihadists, national political extremists have a potential constituency. Jihadist ideology never gained strength in American Muslim communities. The jihadists were isolated, acting independently. In contrast, the beliefs that motivate American national extremists, especially those on the far right, are rooted deep in Norh-American society. Informants may be more difficult to find and political divisions could limit intelligence operations.

The legal campaign against domestic extremism is not an attack on beliefs, nor a crusade to root out anti-government sentiments or end racism. These are issues of national interest. The goal of intelligence is to prevent group violence.

But it seems that most terrorist threats come from individuals or small conspiracies outside of larger movements. The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was carried out by one man and an accomplice, neither of whom acted in a larger organization. Most current terrorists in the West are solitary actors motivated by extremist ideologies, seeking recognition by outdoing previous spectacular attacks.

Several programs have been implemented to identify and deter people who appear to be on the road to violence, but the success of retail intervention as a preventive strategy has not yet been demonstrated.

The current circumstances are different. Prevention of violent crime remains a goal, but expectations may need to be moderated. While intelligence could be a critical component of the U.S. counter-terrorism strategy, there are reasons why it may also be prudent to return to a more traditional approach focused on investigating violent crimes and reporting perpetrators to justice.

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Is technology efficient in the fight against domestic violence?

Domestic violence affects approximately one in three adults in the United States at some point in their lives. It represents more than 40% of all women’s murders: 856 women died in 2017, according to the latest official figures.

Law enforcement has an inefficient history of responding to the problem. According to a Justice Department report, domestic violence, as a category, generates the largest number of calls to police, but advocates for victims of domestic violence have long criticized police for not taking allegations of abuse seriously enough, or they respond with a narrow approach, focused on protection orders, arrests and trials, which do not always help the victims.

However, when one of the world’s largest technology companies, Ring, offers free cameras to help solve the problem, this can be an attractive proposition. Police believe that this could be an ever-available sentry guarding the homes of victims of repeated crimes.

When Ring’s pilot programs began in 2019, these were small in size. Bexar County set aside 50 cameras to protect victims of domestic violence and anyone with a protection order. San Antonio assigned 171 devices to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault who had filed police reports. And in Cape Coral, where this program for fighting domestic violence was supposed to last a year, 100 devices were assigned to victims of domestic violence.

Former Cape Coral police chief David Newlan had the idea to implement the program in that city after a 2017 case in which a case of domestic violence turned into a murder-suicide. The perpetrator had been banned from approaching the victim by a restraining order and was required to wear an ankle bracelet controlled by a third party. On the day of the murder, the monitoring company did not notify the police when he violated the protection order when approaching the victim’s home.

Police departments want to know everything they legally can. But is growing surveillance technology in the public interest?

At least today, more than 1,800 U.S. law enforcement agencies use the Neighbours app, along with more than 360 fire departments. Ring associations, with many police forces using it, give the participating departments a much broader surveillance system than the police themselves could build legally.

The popularity of these programs is unclear. The San Antonio program distributed 158 of its 171 cameras. However, in the first year of the Bexar County program, no more than 15 victims opted for one of the 50 cameras, according to Rosalinda Hibron-Pineda, a victim services specialist at the sheriff’s office. And in Cape Coral, where there were 100 cameras available, only 24 had been given out.

Unless they give law enforcement the tools to arrest and imprison the assailants, the cameras would not be effective.

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