How it all began: Five years of fight against end-to-end encryption

The German EU Presidency wants to enable police forces and secret services to circumvent end-to-end encrypted communication or to use technical tools to defeat it.

A look at the activities carried out over the past five years allows some conclusions about who is particularly committed to the new crypto war. In its wake, Europol is also developing new capabilities for using Trojans and cracking encrypted storage media. „How it all began: Five years of fight against end-to-end encryption“ weiterlesen

Advertising for police databases: Germany wants „European Data Quality Day“

Alerts in the Schengen Information System are increasing significantly every year, entries in Europol databases are also continuing to grow. The German government now wants to use video messages and giveaways to promote the acceptance of the largest European police database.

The German EU Council Presidency wants to introduce a „European Data Quality Day“ (EDQD) in the EU Member States to improve the quality of police data bases. The Federal Ministry of the Interior already sent out a questionnaire on this subject in September, now a proposal is to be discussed at the EU Council of Interior and Justice Ministers. The action day is to be repeated annually and is part of the „European Police Partnership“ (EuPP), which the Federal Government announced on the occasion of its Presidency.

The initiative is mainly aimed at the use of the Schengen Information System (SIS II). Thus, the Member States are to enter more arrest warrants in the database. Improvements are also to be made with regard to incorrect spelling of first names and surnames or changes of name. In some Member States, the SIS II will no longer show previous entries of the person after a marriage. „Advertising for police databases: Germany wants „European Data Quality Day““ weiterlesen

Removal order and upload filter: Controversial EU negotiations before conclusion

Internet service providers comply with police requests to remove content on a large scale on a voluntary basis, but a legislative proposal would force them to cooperate. An agreement could still be reached under the German Presidency of the Council.

Negotiations on an EU regulation against the distribution of terrorist content online could be successfully concluded in the coming weeks. Following the recent attacks in France and Vienna, the Parliament and the Member States of the European Union have made concessions on key points. This emerges from a draft of 9 November which was put online by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch on the trilogue negotiations in which the Commission is also involved.

With the legislative proposal for a „Regulation on Preventing the Dissemination of Terrorist Content Online“ presented by the Commission two years ago, the EU is pressing for „enhanced action“ against terrorist activities. A whole chapter of the draft is devoted to measures that should „effectively tackle“ uploading and sharing of text, images, sound recordings and videos, including a one-hour time limit between placement of the order and its implementation as well as technical means to prevent a reupload. Critics had understood this to mean the introduction of upload filters even for small providers. „Removal order and upload filter: Controversial EU negotiations before conclusion“ weiterlesen

Encryption and drones: German BKA wants more special technology for EU police

While end-to-end encryption should be generally weakened, Europol is developing new secure communication applications for the police. Some of the measures are part of the „European Police Partnership“ proclaimed by the German EU Presidency. This includes the project „WhatsApp for law enforcement officers“.

The German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) is leading a new Europol project on encrypted exchange between European police authorities, a EU document published by Statewatch says. Among other things, the initiative deals with lessons learned from the COVID 19 pandemic, which in many cases also means a switch from face-to-face meetings to video telephony for cross-border police cooperation. Europol has therefore set up a „Core Group for Secure Communications“, which is led by the BKA. It should examine existing methods for their effectiveness, identify possible gaps and make proposals to bridge them.

With its „Virtual Command Post“ application, Europol already provides a secure channel for immediate joint operations, through which personal data is also communicated. For emergency communication in the event of terrorist attacks or major police operations, Europol has recently launched the „Quick Response for Operational Centres“ (QROC) project. For questions related to COVID-19, Europol will initially set up an Internet forum called „Virtual Requests out of Mandate“ (vRoom), which is not intended for the exchange of operational information. „Encryption and drones: German BKA wants more special technology for EU police“ weiterlesen

Anti-terrorism at walking pace: Little European Union action against right-wing extremists

Only after the attack in Christchurch did the EU Commission and the Council take violent right-wing extremism and terrorism more seriously. However, no progress has been made in the cross-border fight against the phenomenon. Some Member States are putting the brakes on political decisions and consider terrorist attacks only as „extremism“.

On 15 March 2019, the Australian-born right-wing terrorist Brenton Tarrant shot 51 people in cold blood and injured another 50 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The perpetrator is considered a „lone wolf“ or „lone actor“, i.e. an individual who has radicalised himself in right-wing forums and social media on the internet. For many years, European police and secret services have monitored and prosecuted the phenomenon exclusively in the field of Islamist terrorism. Only after the momentous attack did cross-border right-wing networks and „lone actors“ radicalised through their structures find their way onto the EU agenda.

There are well-organised right-wing extremist associations such as Blood and Honour, Combat 18, Hammerskins, Soldiers of Odin, the Nordic Resistance Movement or the Identitarians, which all operate throughout Europe and also have connections on other continents. Their activities were partly observed by the EU, but not perceived as a threat. The EU police agency Europol publishes the „Trend Report on Terrorism in Europe“ (TESAT) every year. There, „right-wing terrorism“ is still at the end of the document after „jihadist terrorism“, „ethno-nationalist and separatist terrorism“ and „left-wing terrorism“, where Europol counts mainly arson attacks in the member states. „Anti-terrorism at walking pace: Little European Union action against right-wing extremists“ weiterlesen

SIS 3.0: Thousands of new authorities use the Schengen Information System

After police, customs and immigration offices, numerous non-police authorities are now connected to Europe’s largest database for security purposes. All Schengen states now have to implement three new regulations. Surprisingly, there is resistance in Switzerland. In the end, the country may even leave the network.

With the implementation of three new regulations, some 2,000 additional German federal, state and local authorities will be connected to the Schengen Information System (SIS II). This is what the German Ministry of the Interior wrote in its response to a minor enquiry in August this year. At that time, it was said that „no reliable estimate could be made“ of the number of new authorised persons. In a new answer, the Ministry is now becoming more specific. „SIS 3.0: Thousands of new authorities use the Schengen Information System“ weiterlesen

Germany wants EU concept for „persons considered a potential terrorist or violent extremist threat“

In Germany there is no legal definition of „Gefährder“. They are persecuted for acts they have not yet committed. The Federal Government now wants to exchange more data on this group of people throughout the EU.

Actually, the police should prosecute suspects or defendants of a crime. Its tasks also include the prevention of a „concrete danger“, such as that emanating from persons called „troublemakers“ in police jargon. With the „Gefährder“ a third police target group has been sneaking into German law for two decades, as Heiner Busch expressed it in the magazine CILIP. This marked the beginning of a new stage in the shifting of criminal prosecution to the preliminary stage: threats are being prosecuted that have not yet even occurred.

Before the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, football fans or political activists were referred to as „Gefährder“, but now the category is mostly used in connection with terrorism. There is no legal term for it, instead it is a working definition, which the heads of the state criminal investigation offices and the Federal Criminal Police Office vaguely outlined for the first time in 2004. According to this concept, a „Gefährder“ is a person in respect of whom „certain facts justify the assumption that they will commit politically motivated crimes of considerable importance“. „Germany wants EU concept for „persons considered a potential terrorist or violent extremist threat““ weiterlesen

German proposal: Prohibited EU secret service cooperation through the back door

Although this violates EU treaties, the police agency Europol is to cooperate closely with secret services. This involves lists of suspicious persons originating from third countries. The individuals listed there will then be discreetly searched for throughout Europe.

In fact, the European Union has no competence to coordinate the secret services of the Member States. In the case of Germany, this would also violate the principle of separating the tasks of police and services. Nevertheless, the German EU Presidency is now for the first time pushing for operational cooperation coordinated by Europol.

The German proposal for a „coordinated approach“ deals with covert searches for persons under Article 36 of the SIS II Council Decision, which are based on lists of secret services such as the USA, but also from North Africa or the Western Balkans. They are to be entered into the Schengen Information System (SIS II), to which third countries do not have access. Only the 26 EU Member States involved, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland may issue such alerts. „German proposal: Prohibited EU secret service cooperation through the back door“ weiterlesen

German proposal: EU to take over working group on covert observation and surveillance

European police forces are organised in three informal networks for the exchange of information on techniques and methods of clandestine surveillance. The German Presidency wants to merge the structures and establish them with the EU. Europol could be responsible for coordination.

Police tasks include clandestine surveillance, for example to convict suspects of a crime or to prevent the commission of further offences. To this end, the authorities use technical means to listen to the spoken word, to observe with miniaturised cameras or to trace with tracking devices.

To improve covert observation and surveillance, European authorities are joining forces in three networks. Police authorities from Eastern Europe, Finland and Malta are members of the „Surveillance Cooperation Group“ (SCG) founded in Prague in 2017. The countries of the Western Balkans as well as Austria join forces in the „Surveillance Expert Network for Southeast Europe“ (SENSEE). All other EU Member States, the associated Schengen members Norway and Switzerland as well as Europol are organised in the „European Surveillance Group“ (ESG). Great Britain is also still participating in this group. „German proposal: EU to take over working group on covert observation and surveillance“ weiterlesen

Lawful interception: German government sets up new surveillance unit at Europol

Germany uses its EU Presidency to reorganise digital surveillance in Europe. A 5G working group temporarily set up by the BKA is now being consolidated at Europol. It is to coordinate the „operational capabilities“ in the Member States and facilitate interception through new legislative proposals.

The German Presidency of the EU Council wants to set up a Europe-wide working group on the interception of telecommunications by police forces and secret services. This emerges from a document put online by the British civil rights organisation Statewatch. The „Permanent Group of the Heads of Interception Units“ is to consist of the departments responsible in several Member States.

With this initiative, the German Government wants to improve the „operational capabilities“ in the Member States. However, a central office for interception of telecommunications located at the European Union is probably not adressed, as this would be contrary to the EU treaties. Europol could, however, take on an intermediary role, as it does in the cross-border tracking of GPS transmitters, and ensure that in cross-border investigations different authorities do not monitor the same telephone lines. „Lawful interception: German government sets up new surveillance unit at Europol“ weiterlesen