The SIRIUS project, a cross-border intelligence-sharing platform co-implemented by Europol and Eurojust, in close partnership with the European Judicial Network, concluded its fourth annual conference this week. Among the more than 800 participants in the online conference were law enforcement and judicial authorities, plus representatives from the digital technology sector such as Zoom, Twitch, Booking.com, and Airbnb.
More than half of all criminal investigations today involve a cross-border request for electronic evidence, such as from email or messaging services. As the world has embraced several new technologies due to the pandemic and remote working, criminals have skilfully adapted to and exploited these developments. Accordingly, more international criminal investigations than ever are dependent on fast, secure and legal means of sharing electronic evidence across borders. This purpose is what guided this year’s SIRIUS conference.
The remote challenges of a physical pandemic
The pandemic-associated rise in online criminality has underscored the importance in international judicial cooperation on sharing electronic evidence. Over the course of the three days, participants discussed areas where gathering electronic evidence has become increasingly important since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as in relation to cryptocurrencies and crypto-exchanges used in money laundering. Other sessions covered increased European cooperation with law enforcement counterparts in Asia and North America, and the developments in European technical capabilities in fighting cybercrime.
Welcoming delegates to the start of the SIRIUS Conference, Europol Executive Director Ms Catherine De Bolle remarked: ‘Since 2017, we have seen key stakeholders and some of the major global tech companies on our stage for the SIRIUS Conference to address topics related to cross border access to electronic evidence. Promoting knowledge sharing, creating opportunities for the real exchange of experiences, and improving the capacity to deal with digital data in the context of criminal investigations is now more important than ever.’
Eurojust President Mr Ladislav Hamran stated: ‘What clearly emerged from the SIRIUS Conference is the notion that our success in the fight against cross-border crime depends on the strength of our mutual partnerships in a digital landscape with fragmented legal frameworks. As long as we work together, I am convinced that we can strike the right balance between obtaining access to electronic evidence and upholding the fundamental rights and liberties of our citizens.’
The SIRIUS Conference Programme
As in previous years, each day of the SIRIUS Conference had its own thematic focus. The first day saw a wide-ranging dialogue with technology companies and policy experts to explore the latest judicial developments in the field of e-evidence, as well as to discuss the future implications of a rapidly and dynamically involving field. The first day also highlighted the progress that the SIRIUS project has achieved over the past years, reflected by an exponential growth of its membership base and the growing popularity of its key products and services.
The latter two days of the event, which were restricted to participants from law enforcement and judicial authorities, explored the process of obtaining electronic evidence in various jurisdictions, as well as the latest developments in the rapidly developing field of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT).
The SIRIUS project, co-implemented by Europol and Eurojust, is a central reference point in the EU for knowledge sharing on cross-border access to electronic evidence. It offers a variety of services, such as guidelines, trainings and tools, to help with accessing data held by online service providers. These services are available to law enforcement and judicial authorities via a platform and an application. To this day, SIRIUS serves a community of competent authorities from 44 countries, representing all EU Member States and a growing number of third countries.
The SIRIUS project has received funding from the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy (FPI) under grant agreement No PI/2017/391-896.