Project Octopus: Council of Europe organizes regional workshop on COVID-19 cybercrime and electronic evidence in Asia

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Colombo, March 9, 2022 – The The COVID-19 pandemic has been accompanied by a surge in cybercrime and electronic evidence challenges. This is also true for Asia. The Council of Europe, in the framework of its Octopus project and in co-operation with the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) and Sri Lanka CERT, therefore organized a regional workshop on this topic in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from March 7 to 9, 2022. This event was organized with the financial support of the Government of Japan.

The workshop brought together some 40 experts present in person and representing criminal justice authorities from Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, the US Department of Justice and INTERPOL. In addition, experts from Japan, Indonesia and UNODC contributed online.

The event resulted in a number of proposals aimed at ensuring better criminal justice response to current cybercrime related to COVID-19 and other crises and challenges that may occur in the future.

In his introductory remarks, Jayantha De Silva, Secretary, Ministry of Technology of Sri Lanka, stressed that “securing electronic evidence from foreign service providers is vital to the investigation and prosecution of modern criminal offenses. Given that this evidence is found in multiple jurisdictions, the need for more effective international cooperation is paramount. Sri Lanka has been able to use the Budapest Convention for meaningful and effective international cooperation to gather electronic evidence in several criminal cases”. Mr. De Silva also highlighted the benefits Sri Lanka has reaped from becoming the first country in South Asia to accede to the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, including the trust-based partnership created for law enforcement authorities. criminal. The inauguration was also attended by ICTA President Oshada Senanayake and Sri Lanka CERT President Rohan Muttiah.

“The COVID pandemic has transformed our lives and many of our activities are now taking place online. As a result, crime in cyberspace has increased and become more complex and sophisticated. In these circumstances, the Budapest Convention is particularly useful as a guideline for national legislation and as a framework for international cooperation. Japan continues to emphasize its value also for Asian countries, including within the framework of the ASEAN-Japan dialogue on cybercrime,” said Ambassador Takeshi Akamatsu, Permanent Observer of Japan to the Council of Europe.

“Data protection safeguards are often a precondition to enable the effective transfer of personal data for criminal justice purposes. Sri Lanka is in the process of passing national legislation to this effect,” said Jayantha Fernando, General Counsel of ICTA and Director of Sri Lanka CERTand “Sri Lanka has benefited greatly from its membership of the Budapest Convention for seven years now, including in terms of capacity building but also where cooperation was needed in emergency situations”.

“The huge increase in cybercrime during the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the urgency of building the capacity of public authorities to effectively combat cybercrime”, Alexander Seger, Head of Cybercrime Division, Council of Europe, added. “At the Council of Europe, we are committed to supporting Asian countries to strengthen their laws, policies and practices necessary to respond to both the COVID-19 crisis and future challenges. The tools of the Budapest Convention and its new Second Additional Protocol are essential in this respect to enable enhanced cooperation and the disclosure of electronic evidence.

The event was overshadowed by the Russian Federation’s war on Ukraine which is accompanied by massive cyberattacks. Capacity building in cybersecurity and the fight against cybercrime is now more important than ever.

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