Mr general manager of the KU Leuven;
Ms president of Eurojust;
Mr federal prosecutor;
Dear members of the legal and security communities;
Dear representatives of the academic and corporate world and of the public institutions;
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank the Belgian Cybercrime Centre of Excellence for Training, Research and Education for the invitation to give a brief opening speech during this important international congress on cybercrime, together with other distinguished speakers.
The KU Leuven is not only your host today and tomorrow; during my term of office as minister, I remain connected and attached to this venerable institution as visiting professor. I am, as it were, on my home territory.
Cybercrime has brought you all here together in international and highly specialized company. I do not have to convince you of the enormous opportunities the internet offers, nor of the many and diverse threats it poses.
In my country, the number of registered cybercrime-related offences has steadily increased since the beginning of their registration in the police databases. In the past few years, the police databases have registered more than 15,000 cybercrime-related offences per year, which is no small feat for our little country.
That trend is the same in other countries. Allow me to quote the most recent Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment report of Europol: "Over the past few decades the digital underground has evolved and matured from a few small groups hacking and phreaking for fun and prestige, to a thriving criminal industry that costs global economies an estimated USD 300+ billion per year."
Criminals have been increasingly abusing cyberspace in order to expand or obscure their illegal activities, but countries cannot allow that to disrupt or even undermine their democratic and economic structures.
Our country has been increasingly arming itself against cybercrime and, as minister of Justice, it is my duty to take new initiatives in my area of competence in collaboration with the government.
Though an opening speech is supposed to be brief, I would like to elucidate a few aspects of my policy intention and that of the government.
EXPANSION OF THE POLICE AND CRIMINAL FRAMEWORK AGAINST CYBERCRIME
First, the government will reinforce the resources for the research on and the fight against cybercrime and reinforce the cybersecurity at the level of the police services, the intelligence services and the public prosecutor's office.
As minister of Justice, I will mainly focus on updating the legal instruments in order to deal with the changing technological environment of cybercrime more effectively. You know better than I in which ways the internet is advancing as a communication tool, with applications such as 'Skype', 'Viber', 'Whatsapp', etc.
In addition to modifications of the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal procedure, the Law on particular research methods for police services and the Law on particular intelligence methods for intelligence services will be evaluated.
Taking into account the scope of cybercrime and the priority that has to be accorded to it, I will outline a specific criminal policy in collaboration with the college of general prosecutors.
Those measures have to arm our services even more effectively in the fight against the abuse of the internet and social media, so criminals cannot use them to commit offences or to facilitate or obscure offences.
NATIONAL CYBERSECURITY STRATEGY
The development of a Belgian national cybersecurity strategy is the responsibility of the government. At the end of last year, a Belgian Cybersecurity Centre has been established as part of the Federal Public Service Chancellery of the prime minister. That BCSC falls under the competence of the prime minister and the government will ensure its operational implementation this year.
The centre will be responsible for the development of a cybersecurity strategy for our country, both on the level of information and network security as on the level of the fight against cybercrime that may or may not be organized.
The Cybersecurity Centre will also give policy advice and take initiatives in advising and protecting companies, consumers and public services against cybercrime.
As minister of Justice, I am actually competent for the repression of cybercrime, but for me, it is just as important that the government continually works on society's awareness of the risks concerning cyberspace. That ensures a larger resistance against such threats to our increasingly digital society. After all, prevention is better than cure.
The Belgian Cybersecurity Centre will also have a coordinating role, especially in crisis situations in which the critical infrastructure is being threatened or attacked.
That coordinating mission is crucial to me, because only a collaboration between the public, private and academic sectors will develop sufficient power against the ever changing phenomenon of cybercrime.
The Belgian Cybercrime Centre of Excellence for Training, Research and Education, which organizes this congress in collaboration with the KU Leuven and the Federal Computer Crime Unit of the federal judicial police, has duly recognized the necessity of combined strength.
Since 2011, it has been a platform for the coordination and cooperation of all actors involved in the fight against cybercrime in Belgium.
My Justice Department is an active member of the B-CCENTRE, together with the Institute for Judicial Education for magistrates and members of staff of the judiciary, my National Institution for Criminalistics and Criminology as federal scientific institution and the aforementioned Federal Computer Crime Unit.
Apart from that cooperation platform, the justice department and the police services also take joint initiatives against cybercrime. I hereby refer to the appointment of reference magistrates in the field of computer-related crime within each public prosecutor's office, as well as within the federal prosecutor's office.
Another concrete example is the crash course on cybercrime that was launched by the public prosecutor's office and the Police Academy in the province of East Flanders. Nowadays, criminals are almost omnipresent within the virtual world. Therefore, police officers should be able to deal with a simple hacking and be taught how to respond to such crimes.
Like the B-CCENTRE, the Belgian justice department and the police services do not limit their intense cooperation to the national level. This is currently shown by the highly international composition of this congress resulting from the large number of foreign colleagues who are present here today.
This neatly brings me to the last topic that I would like to discuss briefly, namely the need for international cooperation against cybercrime, for which national borders have become virtually non-existent.
For several years, the Internet Organised Crime Assessment performed by Europol has shown that cybercriminals are increasingly active outside of the classic structures of a criminal organization.
To execute a cyberattack, criminals very often cooperate through virtual contacts via the internet, each offering a particular expertise, without the need to actually meet each other at a specific time or place.
When such volatile criminal individuals conspire to commit cyber-related offences through the use of an international botnet, both the justice department and the police services are faced with an enormous challenge to offer an efficient and effective response.
In the case of classic crimes, national borders provide the perfect opportunity to go into hiding. Cybercriminals, however, are not restricted by any physical or virtual borders and are almost completely free to use all the worldwide possibilities that the internet offers, generally even in absolute anonymity.
Immediately after our opening speeches, two distinguished representatives of Eurojust and Europol will take the floor. This shows that the aim of this congress is completely determined by the aforesaid need for cross-border cooperation.
As a result, rapid and solid information exchanges between the justice department and the police services within Europe, but also far beyond, have become extremely crucial.
Therefore, the Belgian government supports the public institutions as well as the corporate and academic world in all their initiatives that contribute to achieving that goal. Hence, my personal presence during the opening session of this congress.
When fighting cybercrime, our government will pursue a harmonized approach and information exchange at European level, both with regard to the risks and the security leaks, as with regard to the fight against cyberattacks.
Within said framework, our country is an active member of the EU Cybercrime task force, the European Cybercrime Training and Education Group, the European Government Computer Emergency Response Teams Group, the Europol cybercrime expert meeting, the Interpol European working party on IT crime, etc. It proves that Belgium assumes its responsibility on an international level as well.
Since you are attending this international congress, I do not have to convince any of you of the great importance of the fight against cybercrime, and even less so of the need for international cooperation.
I already wish to thank all the distinguished speakers and panel members for their highly appreciated contribution to the success of this international congress. Through their participation, despite their busy professional calendar, they explicitly recognize the importance of a joint and cross-border approach towards cybercrime.
For today and tomorrow, I wish you a very productive congress!