Ireland can now send password-protected data to the EU's police agency for decryption in gangland and child sex abuse investigations, according to the Garda's organised crime chief.
The Garda Cyber Crime Bureau is currently improving its capabilities but the decryption of sophisticated communications technology used by organised crime gangs will always be an international effort, said Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll.
Since last month, the Garda has been able to avail of Europol’s advanced “decryption platform” which is capable of breaking through security measures installed on specialist phones used by organised criminals.
The platform will also be used by EU member states in online child sex abuse investigations.
It is hoped the platform will allow countries such as Ireland to replicate the success of the Encrochat investigation which has so far led to the arrest of hundreds of criminals throughout Europe.
During the investigation, Dutch and French police forces, under the co-ordination of Europol, managed to hack into the encrypted Encrochat phone network used by organised gangs and monitor their communications.
Mr O’Driscoll pointed to the investigation as an example of what can be achieved through international co-operation. He was addressing an online seminar on serious and organised crime, hosted by SAR Consultancy in the UK’s Dublin embassy.
Mr O’Driscoll, who oversees the Garda response to gangland crime, said it is vital the Garda stays one step ahead or at least “not far behind” criminals in the use of technology. “It is of such importance and complexity that not one nation can deal with it. It requires the intervention of the EU.”
Investigative journalist Donal MacIntyre told the seminar it is vital police forces in Ireland and the UK are aware of the possibility of their officers being corrupted by organised criminals.
“Criminals have taken advantage of what they would perceive as a reasonably loose landscape for them to operate and buy influence in, and they have given themselves a buffer from the most serious application of law enforcement,” he said.
“I have spoken to major gangsters who have told me that they have police officers in their pay – people who purposely join the police force under deep cover. A criminal will say that everybody can be bought.”
Robin Miles, of the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA), said the agency has an excellent working relationship with the Garda and has a liaison agent stationed in Dublin. He said one of the main concerns within the NCA regarding organised crime is the increase in criminal groups using Ireland to traffic migrants into the UK via the land border with Northern Ireland.