The Commonwealth Secretariat project ‘Strengthening of International Cooperation in Cybercrime Investigations’ culminated this week with awards being presented by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, to Canada, Mauritius, Scotland and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, with the fifth winner being presented their award by the Fijian President.
This Commonwealth project, supported by the Government of the United Kingdom, through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, aims to support implementation of the Commonwealth Cyber Declaration, agreed by Commonwealth Heads of Government at their meeting in London in April 2018. The Cyber Declaration committed Commonwealth Heads of Government to a cyberspace that supports economic and social development and rights online; to build the foundations of an effective national cybersecurity response; and to promote stability in cyberspace through international cooperation. Specifically, the Declaration committed Commonwealth member countries to use national contact points and other practical measures to enable cross-border access to digital evidence through mutually agreed channels to improve international cooperation to tackle cybercrime.
To fulfil these commitments, I have facilitated training in Australia, Barbados and South Africa for 53 national contact points from 36 Commonwealth countries on preserving and requesting digital evidence. This training went alongside a review by leading blockchain expert Neil Pennington, who assessed country needs for secure communications to advance cybercrime investigations.
To test the national contact points, I drafted desktop cross-border exercises to assess their response to a cyber-terrorist attack on critical infrastructure, using international cooperation. Over the course of a week, the national contact points were expected to collaborate to pursue available informal routes to preserve and secure digital evidence, draft and execute mutual legal assistance requests, commence extradition processes and establish joint investigation teams.
As an appointed judge for the exercise, I assessed each national contact on their legal knowledge, drafting skills, problem solving ability, communication to advance cooperation, application of data protection obligations and effective decision making to achieve a successful outcome.
The national contact points from Canada, Fiji, Mauritius, Scotland and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines demonstrated excellence in these judging criteria. Each national contact point quickly identified potential obstacles, communicated solutions and proactively delivered results. This marked them out as well deserved winners of these first Commonwealth awards.
Building on the momentum of these cross-border exercises, I look forward to continued funding for the project to ensure national contact points have the confidence to effectively respond in real-time operations, maintain awareness of current trends and threats and drive forward reform for secure communications.