Law enforcers plan Canadian cyber-crime centre

The Canadian Association of Police Boards’ initiative to establish a global centre for cyber crime in Canada got a boost this week with a $100,000 pledge from Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day.

The CyberPol Global Centre for Securing Cyberspace is envisioned to become a centralized collaboration centre for Canadian and international law enforcement agencies in a bid to combat all forms of cyber crime, according to Ian Wilms, president of the Canadian Association of Police Boards (CAPB).

“There are only 245 technology police officers in Canada and in almost every single crime now there is a computer involved,” said Wilms. “Whether it’s a BlackBerry, cell phone or computer, they are going into evidence rooms and it’s taking six months to a year to actually get to do forensics on it, which is completely unacceptable in this day and age.”

The federal government’s contribution will help fund a national study the CAPB will conduct on the impact of cyber crime on all sectors of Canadian society, Wilms said. The study will involve both businesses and consumers to get a sense of the extent of computer-related crimes in Canada, including child exploitation, financial fraud, identity theft and intellectual property offences, he added.

The cyber crime impact study will be conducted over the next four months, after which the CAPB will release a national report “so Canadians can become aware,” Wilms added.

At the same time, the CAPB will commence work on a feasibility study that will bring together various law enforcement agencies, including the RCMP and municipal police forces, technology experts, as well as security partners from the U.S. and other countries to determine what the best model for the CyberPol Centre would be, he said. Much of the details of how, when and where the CyberPol Centre will be established have yet to be determined, but Wilms is certain that the initiative will create a central clearing house for developing policies and assisting countries, not only in enforcing the law, but in prosecuting crimes in the borderless world of the Internet.

“Law enforcement is kind of stuck in a bit of a jurisdictional rut, I guess,” said Wilms. “With computer crimes crossing so many borders, it’s extremely hard to prosecute, especially with everybody’s computer laws not being in the same standard.” While the proposed CyberPol Centre may be a “perfectly legitimate exercise,” the difficulty for the proponents of this project will be on trying to get stakeholder support, according to Mary Kirwan, CEO of Toronto-based security consultancy Headfry Inc. “I think the police will face the challenge of trying to convince the rest of the market that (CyberPol) adds value over and above what is already there,” Kirwan said.

Kirwan cited the existence of the U.S.-based Information Sharing and Analysis Centre (ISAC), for instance, which has an IT arm that serves as a central monitoring and collaboration on matters relating to Internet threats.

“There’s been a lot of these initiatives in other countries where what you end up with is a duplication rather than adding new value,” Kirwan said. While agreeing that there are a number of cyber crime-related initiatives already existing elsewhere, Wilms said most of them are individual initiatives that may be accomplishing only a fraction of what can be accomplished with an integrated, collaborative approach.

“I’ve seen first hand in the different law enforcement agencies that this is not a priority and we’re falling behind dramatically,” he said.

In addition to collaboration for law enforcement and prosecution, the CyberPol Centre can also provide special constable training for technology professionals, for instance, so they can apply their computer expertise to law enforcement, said Wilms, who is also a business development executive with IBM Canada.

So far, the CyberPol proposal has received nods from both public and private sectors, including IBM and the Canadian Bankers Association, according to Wilms. The Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Network, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, the RCMP and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police have likewise expressed their support for the initiative.

“We want to be very inclusive in ensuring that we are strengthening and increasing the amount of resources we are putting towards this,” said Wilms.

Big plans come with such big purpose, and Wilms wants the CyberPol Centre to become a one-stop-shop that will link cyber crime fighters from all sectors and make the endeavour as simplified as possible.

“(CyberPol) will be a forensics clearing house for law enforcement in Canada; it will be a training centre; I’m looking to have a global security operations centre there so we can actually see in real-time what is happening on the Internet,” he said.

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