Last week, Microsoft hosted our first Cybercrime Enforcement Summit. More than 60 global law enforcement leaders and cybercrime experts met in Redmond for two days of closed-door sessions, discussing best practices and concrete steps to protect people online.
As I reflect upon the event, I think there are three key takeaways that will guide the efforts of all of those that attended:
1. Actions speak louder than words
We are entering a new era of collaboration where there is a shared recognition that only through strong partnerships can we not only keep pace with cybercriminals, but get ahead of them. We must work across borders and break down barriers within organizations that can hinder cooperation. This is not easy, but the dialogue at the Summit suggested a willingness to push ahead and break down obstacles.
We are encouraged by the signing of three MOUs that will increase cooperation between Microsoft and three very diverse organizations: the Organization of American States, FIS Global and Europol. All seek to keep their constituents safe from the blight of cybercrime, and we can learn a lot from their experiences, resulting in increased protection of our most vulnerable citizens.
2. Protecting the young and elderly
Cybercriminals often target the least powerful: The young and the elderly. One of the major topics during the Summit was increasing our protection of these groups.
Whether it is a young victim of child exploitation, or an elderly victim of an online scam, we should be motivated by their plights and rally to their aid.
3. New problems need new solutions
Finally, the biggest takeaway from the Summit was that new problems of cybercrime require new solutions. For example, Big Data and visualization tools can help law enforcement and governments track and trace criminal organizations in innovative ways, allowing us to follow their digital fingerprints and hold them accountable. While it’s true that cybercriminals are craftier than ever, so are our tools and technology, our capacity to harness Big Data, and our ability to disrupt the criminal organizations so bent on inflicting harm.
We should also explore new ways of working together and learning from each other, from the real-time sharing of information about cybercriminals, to embedding employees into partner organizations on key investigations – for a few days, weeks or even months. That is true collaboration, and we saw closer connections occurring as representatives from diverse institutions sat across from one another at the Summit. The fact is, you can’t do the same old thing and expect a different result. We need to tackle cybercrime with new, bolder approaches – and new partnerships – if we are going to get a step ahead of the cybercriminals.
Stories of widespread hacking and identity theft are making headlines every day. As the criminals become more brazen and sophisticated, it’s natural for the rest of us to wonder: How do you defeat cybercriminals who are so brazen, so nimble and so motivated by money?
The Summit served as a reminder that old methods won’t do. Those that have crime-fighting muscle must step up and take the fight to the cybercriminals themselves. And we have to do it in some new ways, making sure that experts in the private sector, the public sector, and academia work together so we can build a safer internet.
On a final note, after the Summit, I had a chance to sit down with Troels Oerting from Europol and Ernie Allen from the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children to discuss the complicated nature of cybercrime, and the importance of coming together to make real progress. I’ve included some of that discussion in the following video.