UNODC supports the Central Asian states in combatting cybercrime

The proliferation of information systems and technologies has turned cybercrime to one of the fastest growing crime types. The internet and associated technologies have created a whole new platform and instruments for criminals around the world, erasing boundaries and making traditional methods used by law enforcement obsolete. Entwinement of new cybercrime instruments in a wide range of illegal activities ranging from economic crimes to drug trafficking and terrorism create new challenges for law enforcement and criminal justice institutions. This phenomenon also affects the Central Asian countries.

In response to the emerging issues of cybercrime, the UNODC Programme for Central Asia is offering capacity building opportunities for the member countries under the "Combatting Cybercrime in Central Asia" component which was launched in 2017 and funded by the Government of Sweden.

As part of the activities planned under the component, a series of specialized training workshops were organized through November - December, 2017. This included three regional training workshops on drug trafficking via the internet, followed by training on cryptocurrencies and money transfer systems. Lastly, a workshop on online child exploitation was held.

The training on drug trafficking on the internet - Drugs@Online, was delivered from 20 - 24 November in Astana, Kazakhstan and was organized in cooperation with the Embassy of Italy, Embassy in the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Italian Central Counter-Narcotics Directorate.

The workshop covered the phenomenon of trading controlled substances on the internet and techniques used by law enforcement agencies to effectively counter such crimes. In particular, the participants of the training were introduced to the technical aspects of the topic - usage of various instruments such as onion routers, virtual private networks and the darknet. The agenda also included sessions on techniques applied to combat drug trafficking via the internet.

The second training in the series focused on cryptocurrencies. The session on "Investigation of Money Laundering with Cryptocurrencies, Money Transfer Systems and Electronic Money" was held from the 27 th November to the 1 st of December 2017 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

The training workshop covered new instruments which are becoming available in money laundering operations such as money transfer systems, electronic money and cryptocurrencies. Money transfer systems and varieties of electronic money are quite popular in the region with cryptocurrencies also gaining greater use throughout the world. The workshop topics included:  risks and challenges posed by cryptocurrencies, bitcoin investigations, and law enforcement cooperation with money transfer systems. The training, with its interactive approach, allowed the participants to explore the topic online.

The sessions were conducted by international experts, including experts from the UNODC Global Programme against Money-Laundering, Proceeds of Crime and the Financing of Terrorism. The UNODC Programme for Central Asia cooperated with Sub-programme 2 of the UNODC Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries in the organization of this training workshop.

Finally, a series of cybercrime workshops were wrapped up in Almaty, Kazakhstan with the training on "Computer facilitated crimes against children", held from the 4 th to the 8 th of December 2017 in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The purpose of the session was to provide the participants with a basic understanding of online child sexual exploitation and the challenges for law enforcement worldwide. The participating officers received instructions in basic digital investigations, while also gaining an understanding of victim and offender identification in addition to online undercover operations. They learned how to identify the signs of victimization in children, how children make disclosures, and the best methods for interviewing these victims.

The training was delivered by experts from the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC), a Washington, D.C. (USA) based NGO,as well as by the law enforcement officers from the Canadian Police Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, Australian Police, the United States Ministry of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigations. 

In total, 80 law enforcement officers from General Prosecutor's Offices, Ministries of Interior, and other relevant agencies of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan attended the training workshops. Besides gaining valuable theoretical and practical skills, it is very important that the regional span of the workshop provided an opportunity for the officers to share experience with their counterparts from other countries in the region.

The training workshops have been conducted successfully, with all participants rating the courses as "excellent" or "very good" in thepost-training evaluations, while also noting that they have gained valuable knowledge. The training participants expressed their high interest in the topics offered by the series of training workshops on cybercrime and noted that these types of seminars are very relevant and timely for their countries. Particular requests from the trainees included the continuation of activities under this component in the future by organizing such workshops on a more frequent basis.