Interpol’s cybercrime chief eyes Middle East duty station as he steps up battle against hackers

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Updated 14 November 2022

Interpol’s cybercrime chief eyes Middle East duty station as he steps up battle against hackers

Interpol’s cybercrime chief eyes Middle East duty station as he steps up battle against hackers

Interpol is working on establishing a duty station in the Middle East as it steps up its fight against cybercrime, according to the man responsible for defeating online criminals at the organization.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh, Craig Jones — Interpol’s director of cybercrime — said a tranche of staff already working in the region will be focusing on online security from 2023 as part of a new workstream.

Jones pointed out that the global nature of cybercrime means his officers do not necessarily need to be stationed in one place, but a base in the region would be advantageous. 

He said: “I've already given the example of Africa, but setting up for the Middle East and North Africa, this is going to be happening in 2023. 

“That means that in the Middle East there will be offices and staff that will be either seconded directly to us or liaison officers working closely to us and prioritizing cybercrime.

Jones said: “We will be able to then work with those offices directly to the region, directly to the country, and, as I say, carrying out those activities to identify high harm, high impacting income in countries and regions, but then designing our program of work to hopefully reduce some of that harm as well. And that will continue in the coming years.”

When asked if Interpol will set up a specific office in the region for cybercrime staff, the director said: “At the moment we're looking at where we can station. Normally they can only be stationed, you know, in our duty stations. We don't have a duty station in the Middle East at the moment. 

“So again, there is work ongoing about where we can establish a duty station…in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) in the region as well.” 

Interpol, an international organization that facilitates worldwide police cooperation and crime control, is responsible for connecting the policing activities of 195 countries. 

Jones explained that Interpol’s global cybercrime program is becoming more effective as it can pull data from private companies for policing.  

“We can identify some of those vulnerabilities and share that information through law enforcement and private parties so that they understand the latest crime trends,” he explained.  

Jones said a greater focus is needed to thwart cybercrime due to the fundamental shift in working patterns caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“As we all ended up working online almost overnight when the pandemic hit, we increased the potential of services for cybercriminals to take advantage,” he explained.

Jones noted that Interpol is working with the UN over a new convention on cybercrime and as part of the campaign recently had meetings with the Saudi police force and the National Cyber Security Authority to develop modalities for combating cybercrime.