International collaboration against cybercrime – experiences from CYCLOPES & Octopus 2023

Teksti | Oskari Lappalainen

Cybercrime is a global problem that requires international cooperation. This article describes how the CYCLOPES project has sought to cultivate international networks to build capacity in the fight against cybercrime. The critical importance of collaboration was also one of the key themes of the Octopus 2023 conference, in which members of Laurea’s CYCLOPES team participated. This article explores how the themes of the CYCLOPES project and Octopus 2023 are related, how the Laurea team contributed to them, and what Laurea learned in return.

Photo by VideoFlow on Adobe Stock (Laurea Education Licence)

CYCLOPES promotes law enforcement cyber capabilities

The Cybercrime law enforcement practitioners’ network CYCLOPES is an EU Horizon 2020 project that aims to build an innovation-driven network of law enforcement practitioners, academia, and industry from across Europe, with a wide range of experience in the field of fighting cybercrime. Specific activities include development of standardisation in areas related to fighting cybercrime, innovation research and technology-related market scanning, and identification of gaps and needs within law enforcement capabilities.

Areas where standardisation work has been performed are forensic standard for mobile device acquisition, assurance of tools used in digital forensics, unified reporting systems, standards for AI/ML (Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning) usage in forensics cases.

The CYCLOPES project has done considerable work in identifying various gaps and needs in law enforcement capabilities. Gaps and needs have been identified in the fields of remote desktop protocols, mobile and wearable devices, social engineering, automotive digital forensics, cryptocurrency, cloud services and IoT devices. Reports detailing the particular findings of this work have been published on the CYCLOPES project website.

To further these practical activities and to facilitate network constructs, CYCLOPES has organised various events, workshops, live exercises and webinars. Dissemination of information and results derived from practical activities has been another important part of CYCLOPES’ mission. Laurea has contributed to these efforts, in particular, we have been involved in the creation of various reports, dissemination materials (e.g posters and newsletters) and the maintenance and development of CYCLOPES’ social media presence.

The seven work packages that constitute the project’s activities are distributed among the following European organisations:

  • WP1 (Project Management & Security) – Polish Platform for Homeland Security
  • WP2 (Identification of Gaps & Needs) – Home Office UK
  • WP3 (Research, Innovation & Market Watch) – Centric
  • WP4 (Standardization & Innovation Uptake) – Austrian Standards International
  • WP5 (Community building) – Polish Platform for Homeland Security
  • WP6 (Communication & Dissemination) – Laurea University of Applied Sciences
  • WP7(Cybercrime Research) – Cybercrime Research Institute

Beyond the members of its network, the CYCLOPES project also actively maintains connections with international organisations like Europol, Interpol, European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) and various law enforcement networks such as European Network of Law Enforcement Technology Services (ENLETS), European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI) and EU-HYBNET. CYCLOPES also participates in networks of cybersecurity specialists and industry and academia relevant to the scope of the project.

Experiences from the Octopus 2023 conference

To develop and strengthen links with the wider cybercrime community for specific expertise, three members of Laurea’s CYCLOPES team attended the Octopus 2023 cybercrime conference. The importance of international cooperation in itself proved to be one of the main themes of the Octopus conference.

The Octopus conference is among the largest cybercrime conferences in the world. The Octopus conference is organised by the Council of Europe and aims to support the implementation of the Budapest Convention, an international agreement to combat cybercrime.

Formally known as the Convention on Cybercrime, the Budapest Convention (2001) is a comprehensive agreement on cybercrime and electronic evidence. It serves as a guideline for countries seeking to develop domestic legislation on cybercrime and a framework for international co-operation. While the agreement was initially drawn up by the member states of the Council of Europe, it has become a truly global convention with member states from every continent, except Antarctica as signatories.

The role of Laurea’s participation in the event was twofold: to present the CYCLOPES project to a wider audience, to learn about current issues in the fight against cybercrime and to produce a public report based on the findings.

During the conference, certain themes emerged frequently. They were as follows:

  • The truly global nature of cybercrime
  • Challenges to national sovereignty
  • Intensification of international collaboration against cybercrime
  • Dilemmas of ethics, rule of law and efficient measures
  • Ransomware as a major international problem
  • Emergence of cyber warfare
  • Persistence of child sexual abuse & CSAM (Child Sexual Abuse Material) as a severe problem
  • Threats and possibilities of modern technologies.

During the conference it became clear that no country is too ”small” or ”remote” to be safe from cybercrime. Also, it became apparent that cybercriminals are very adept at exploiting the differences in national legislations to their benefit, and this poses a challenge to traditional nations of national sovereignty As cybercrime has become truly global, so have the various international cooperation efforts to combat it. However, there remain puzzling questions on ethics, rule of law and efficient measures against cybercrime.

On particular subjects related to cybercrime, ransomware emerged multiple times as a severe international problem that urgently requires new techniques, initiatives, and forms of collaboration to combat effectively. One of the most worrying recent trends has been the emergence of cyber warfare in the current war in Ukraine.

The sexual abuse of children online and production of Child Sexual Abuse Materials (CSAM) remains disturbingly widespread and has taken on new forms as a result of technological advances. However, certain new methods are being deployed to combat this persistent threat. Overall, there was a certain sense of a technological arms race with both cyber criminals and the law enforcement officials fighting against them are keen to deploy new technologies such as new AI solutions.

Our experiences at the Octopus conference emphasised the importance of projects such as for projects such as CYCLOPES for network building and facilitating international collaboration. At a general level, the work done to identify gaps and needs in law enforcement capabilities and standardisation activities has been well placed. The need for new solutions to present day cybercrime was a very central theme of the conference.

One focal point in the Octopus conference was preventing and investigating child sexual abuse and production of child sexual abuse materials, which have been a major interest for CYCLOPES project as well. The project arranged a workshop for law enforcement officials working in this field and has been cultivating networks with organisations that aim to combat this type of cybercrime. Considering the widespread and severe nature of these crimes, the focus has been well justified.

Lessons learned, networks deepened

Thanks to its active engagement and cooperation in the CYCLOPES project, Laurea has further deepened and expanded its connections within cybercrime and cybersecurity field. Laurea has also facilitated connections between the CYCLOPES network and other projects and operators that Laurea is involved with such as the EU-HYBNET and NOTIONES.

Being part of cybercrime fighting networks, close to practitioners, industry and think tanks, brings a unique opportunity to see firsthand the gaps, needs, and opportunities for development in the field of cybercrime and cybersecurity. This knowledge further opens the doors for Laurea to embark on new research, development and innovation activities in international cooperation. For the more junior members of the Laurea CYCLOPES team, involvement in the project has been a great learning experience on the field of the fight against cybercrime.

As CYCLOPES is set to continue until April 2026, Laurea will make much more contributions to the project, and in turn, further develop networks and experience related to the project.

About the author

Oskari Lappalainen is a project worker at Laurea. He works as a communications specialist at the CYCLOPES projects. His interests include cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, resilience, ecosystems and circular economy.



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