Jürgen Stock: "International organized crime will grow after the pandemic" Source: AFP

"It is a turbulent world," says Interpol number one worldwide, Jürgen Stock, as he adjusts himself. They are intense months.

The pandemic of


coronavirus

it entails "an unprecedented challenge" to prevent and combat crime, he points out; especially organized crime. And, even more, the transnational criminals that plague the Internet.

"The challenge for governments is to react quickly," he asks LA NACION, from Lyon. But it corrects itself. "They must react now". Because in desperate situations, he explains, if the State does not provide a containment network for those who lose their jobs or their companies, there are the mafias to fill the gap and take advantage of every opportunity they detect.

"See what happened to the 'Ndrangheta, which had a strong presence in more than 30 countries around the world, including the

Argentina

"he points out.

He refers to the operation that days ago ended with six members of the Calabrian mafia detained in Albania, Costa Rica, Buenos Aires and Cañuelas.

, and the seizure of cocaine,

marijuana

, assault rifles and ammunition. That shows how quickly criminals adapt to new realities, he says, "how they follow the virus around the world."

Organized crime, terrorism,

drug trafficking

they are permanent challenges, but now in their pandemic version. "Overnight, criminals exploited vulnerabilities, fears, people's concerns and the needs of states to access protection materials such as masks, for example," he details from the organization's headquarters.

that brings together the police forces of 194 countries

. It is a trend, which anticipates that it will sharpen. "Organized crime will grow after the pandemic."

– What worries you most about what you observe during the pandemic?

-The loss of life and the many who have been infected, of course, and in our work in particular, the many police officers who are in the front line with broader roles than usual, as they now enforce confinement, They maintain permanent contact with the community and continue their investigative work, leading them to interact with witnesses, suspects, criminals and so much more. This implies that many police officers caught the virus and died. This is an unprecedented challenge, we have never experienced anything like this, and this situation allows us to observe how criminals "follow" the virus around the world.

-What does it mean?

-Overnight, criminals exploited vulnerabilities, fears, people's concerns and the needs of States to access protection materials such as masks, for example. They set up fake internet pages at full speed. For an organization like ours, with 194 member countries, which has the role of daily monitoring the global picture of threats, this is a unique experience to assimilate what criminals are doing to benefit from the pandemic. Cyber ​​threats are not new, but now they have a new approach. All of this is what worries me during the pandemic. Of course I hope that a vaccine will be developed quickly, but the truth is that we do not know how long the current situation will last, or what will come next. We do know, however, that all this will impact crime, as has already happened.


Jürgen Stock: "International organized crime will grow after the pandemic" Source: AFP

-Can you give an example?

-As no one is on the streets or there are far fewer people, crimes committed on public roads decreased. But domestic violence increased, robberies increased to shops and businesses where criminals know that there is no one, and many criminal activities turned to the virtual world, taking advantage of the fact that our children are spending much more time on the Internet; for example, to try to exploit them sexually. This is not new, but it was fueled by the pandemic. Some of the most terrible things I've had to deal with are of that sort, and we may just be looking at the tip of the iceberg. In fact, all of this is a huge challenge because many criminal activities are not local or national, but have a transnational dimension. Cybercrimes are the best example. Almost all of them have an international component. And that implies that the Argentine authorities, for example, not only have to contact their colleagues from neighboring countries, but they must connect with colleagues from another continent! That is what makes our work, today, in a globalized world, more important than ever before!

-Are these same challenges that you pose during the pandemic that you anticipate for the day after?

-We have an innovation team based in Singapore that is planning possible scenarios for the next day together with experts convened from universities, the private sector and non-governmental organizations. If the pandemic impacts the global economy as hard as they anticipate the

International Monetary Fund

or the World Bank, which predict a severe global recession, that will influence crime at the national, regional and global levels. We must prepare for what is to come. See what happened to the 'Ndrangheta, which had a strong presence in more than thirty countries around the world, including Argentina. They were already taking advantage of the situation! Traditionally, they operated with one foot in the formal economy, in businesses such as funeral services, garbage collection and food distribution, but during the pandemic they try to take advantage of the weaknesses of small and medium-sized businesses to filter into the economy, increase their influence and earn money. We are talking about a billion dollar industry! So the day after the pandemic we will have to continue fighting transnational crime, terrorism, cybercrime, human trafficking and environmental crime. All of that will grow, no matter what the post-pandemic world looks like. Criminals have always taken advantage of loopholes and opportunities. The situation is complex.

-Do you see governments, the private sector and communities reacting to the challenges of this global crisis?

-Definitely. I think we all understand that the challenge for governments is to react quickly. Many people in many countries are in a very dire economic situation, with businesses closing and business operations dropping to zero, and governments must react now. They cannot say they will help them next year. It should be now. But at the same time, we must not forget the concept of "Security by Design" either. Let's look at the economic stimulus packages that were approved in some countries. They should include as many security elements as possible; if not, criminals will seize the opportunity. We should not make it so easy for them, that they cannot easily set up fraudulent websites, that they cannot easily access people's data to profit from them. This concept of "Security by Design" is not something exclusive to companies to prevent cybercrime from infiltrating their operating systems. Governments must also take into account that there may be criminals who are attentive to exploit the opportunities presented to them.

-Are there any estimates of the damage caused by criminal activities during the pandemic?

– It is very complex to estimate it. Organized crime activities, environmental crime, money laundering and many other variants, developed by groups like 'Ndrangheta, are industries that move billions of dollars a year, so we are not talking about small-scale activities. The dimension is gigantic, transnational and transcontinental. And remember that those who today traffic in people or smuggle products can sell weapons tomorrow and drugs the next day. They take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to them. We are talking about criminal groups with enormous financial possibilities that can easily deal with quarantines and expect to be presented with an opportunity, being a person in need of credit to keep their business going, thus giving them influence in the formal economy. They are very flexible and their goal is often to move below radar. Of course, in certain parts of the world they want to attract attention through brutal violence, but in other regions they even seek the support of their communities, offering them the support they require, to continue their illegal activities without having problems with the locals.

-If all this is what worries you during and after the pandemic, do you see anything hopeful?

-I hope that all this leads us to the global understanding that we are living on a beautiful planet, that many of our problems are global and that organized crime, terrorism and cybercrime may not be very different from other global problems that we face, such as climate change, migration, poverty or even the pandemic. These are challenges that no country or region can face alone. We can only deal with them successfully if we unite, if we coordinate a multilateral platform. So I hope that the pandemic will teach us the lesson of staying together and reacting in a coordinated way to solve the problems we face. Because this globalized world, which carries so many benefits, also brings enormous opportunities to criminals operating on a global scale. I insist: look at our operation against the 'Ndrangheta, in full pandemic, even in Argentina. That gives me optimism that after Covid-19, we will continue to advance.

-In April, he raised the importance of "staying alert, being skeptical and protecting your computers and devices." Four months later, would you correct or update that comment in any way?

-No, I reaffirm it. That comment was valid before the pandemic, it is now and it will be later. We all have a role to take to take care of ourselves. It is not something exclusive to the police. I start with myself: I must protect my computers in the same way that I close the doors of my car and my house at night. That does not imply that my house should be a fortress, but I must take the basic preventive measures that prevent at least 90% of attacks. The same is true of cyber attacks, to protect us, our children, our families and the places where we work. We must use all available technology such as antivirus, the most suitable software, firewalls and complete updates regularly. Our experience shows that many of the attacks that occur, even against hospitals during the pandemic, are because the software used by victims is not properly updated or because they are not sufficiently prepared for "social engineering."

-Can you explain it?

-They send you an email with a story that seems true but in practice leads to an employee turning funds to the wrong destination or opening a document attached to the mail, serving as a gateway to the operating system of the hospital, the company or the Wherever you work. That can be easily prevented and thus prevent most cyber attacks.

– Are there any questions that I did not ask you and would like to address?

– (Think for a few seconds) Perhaps I would like to highlight the idea that we can all contribute to living safer, that we all have a role to assume and that the best approach is prevention. The best crime is the one that does not happen because people take measures to prevent it. It is key to our well-being and to the next generation. We all want to be calm, without worrying that something might happen to our boys if they leave home. And that is not possible without a partnership between citizens and the police. It is key to face the challenges of the 21st century.

Biography

Born in 1959, he studied Criminology at the University of Giessen and in 1996 he obtained his doctorate in Law, to later preside over the University of Applied Police Sciences in Saxony – Anhalt.

In 1978 he entered the Police; since 1996 he was a member of the dome of the Unit for Fighting Economic Crime and between 2004 and 2014 he was vice-president of the Federal Criminal Police Office of

Germany

.

Since 2006 he is an honorary professor of Law and Criminology at the University of Giessen; He is a member of the Advisory Council of the Federal Ministry of Economy and Technology of Germany, dedicated to suggesting security and technology solutions.

In 2007 he took over as Vice President for Europe on the Interpol Executive Committee; in 2014 he was appointed secretary general of Interpol, a position for which he was re-elected in 2019.

Recommendation to use the time

– Given that millions of Argentines must remain in their homes for months, what books, movies, music or other activity do you recommend to distract yourself or "take advantage" of the time? What do you do in your free time?

-Many people raise the concept of "social distancing" to protect ourselves during the pandemic, but I prefer to talk about "physical distancing", so what I have been doing is connecting with old friends using available technology, spending considerable time calling Those people who always said "uh, I should call him someday", but never decided to do it. That is the lesson that I learned during this pandemic and that I will keep when it ends, and that is also my suggestion: let's use these wonderful technologies that allow us to connect like never before. That said, I also did some sports and read books on politics, history, and the environment. They reinforce the idea of ​​how beautiful this planet is, for which we don't have a "plan B".

ALSO

. (tagsToTranslate) Coronavirus. Jürgen Stock: "Many criminal activities turned towards the virtual world during the pandemic" – LA NACION

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