Singapore-based Interpol centre creates virtual currency to fight crime

THE new Singapore-based Interpol Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) has created its own cryptocurrency in a bid to better combat crimes involving virtual currencies such as the bitcoin.

The complex, which became fully operational earlier this week, houses the international police's first digital crime centre and cybercrime research and development capabilities.

Speaking to The Straits Times on the sidelines of the biennial security trade event Interpol World, held this week at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, IGCI director of cyber innovation and outreach Madan Mohan Oberoi said his team has already made progress in several projects.

The 30 or so personnel, including officers from the Singapore Police Force, have been working to develop in-house forensic tools within the IGCI.

One of these is the agency's own virtual currency, which can be used in a specially designed simulation-based training game to create scenarios of cryptocurrency use and misuse.

"It's a virtual world that we have created, and personnel can come and operate these things and learn by operating them," said Dr Oberoi, a former inspector-general of police with India's Central Bureau of Investigation, where he headed the cybercrime cell, technical and forensic zone and international police co-operation unit.

"We felt that these things, if you try to teach people from a policing background through PowerPoint presentations, it doesn't make too much sense. Let them play around and learn more," added Dr Oberoi, the Hubert Humphrey Fellow in 2010-2011 under the international Fulbright Scholarship Programme, whose doctorate is in cybercrime.

His team also identified vulnerabilities in virtual currencies that can be used for posting malware, and he oversaw the development of a tracer that could help law enforcement officers track down those behind such acts.

Cryptocurrencies are presenting emerging challenges as they become more widely used, and Interpol is also looking at the policy and law enforcement implications of these virtual currencies.

Seizing virtual currencies, preserving them and presenting them to court are some of the issues that Dr Oberoi's team is exploring.

Next week, Interpol will issue a document that will function as a road map to define its future activities in cybercrime research.

The document is the product of a workshop held here earlier this year with various law enforcement agencies, members of academia and banking and security experts from private sectors around the world.

"The idea was to identify what should be the direction of research in the cyberworld for the law enforcement industry," said Dr Oberoi. Digital forensics and the ability to measure and forecast cybercrime top the list of priorities set out in this Interpol Cyber Research Agenda.

Dr Oberoi's team is also exploring project ideas with various institutions here, such as the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

Said Dr Oberoi: "Cybercrime is a domain where information and expertise lie outside the domain of law enforcement agencies, so we have to reach out to other stakeholders... consult each other and work closely together."

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