Supporting victims of Cybercrime – autumn conference by VSE

18 Dec, 2017

On Friday 8 December 2017  in partnership with European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), VSE organised a conference “Supporting victims of Cybercrime”

The Conference provided an unique opportunity to address the most active issues related to cybercrime. Recognising that the focus is primarily on prevention, security and pursuit of criminals, the conference placed a spotlight on what happens to victims after the crime, what they need and how to support them.

The program  was opened by VSE president João Lázaro who gave an inspiring opening speech, pointing VSE’s main achievements in 2017 and confirming our determination to work on support to victims of cybercrime in the future,

Next, the President of the Section of Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship, Pavel Trantina, representing EESC stated that EESC is glad to continue their strong partnership with Victim Support Europe and that helping the victims of cybercrime is of growing importance.

Alexandra Jour-Schroeder from European Commission/DG Justice confirmed that for the European Commission it is very important, as always, to work with Victim Support Europe and its members. Ms. Jour-Schroeder pointed out that it is important to apply what already exists – making the EU victims rights Directive is implemented with a specific focus on victims of cybercrime. She added that victims of cybercrime have the right to specialised support tailored to their individual needs. Finally,  Ms. Jour-Schroeder stressed that we are faced with a borderless problem and shared that DG Justice is working on an initiative to improve access to electronic evidence.

During the conference we had opportunity to watch an emotional video testimony from Sandra Spitaels, mother of a teenager who killed himself following the posting of his nude photo online. Victim testimonials are essential part of our events and very important part of our work. We are here for all victims of cybercrime and their courage and determination give us strength to continue our efforts towards establishing rights for all victims.

The conference continued with Cathay Delaney from Europol with a presentation on Reporting Cyber Crime Online and Taking down Cybercrime organisations. During his speech Mr. Delaney spoke about Europol’s operation avalanche which took down a network of cybercrime through successful coordinated action in 30 countries resulting in the arrest of those responsible for cybercrimes. Within this action the victims were also helped to get the malware off their computers. Europol moreover accumulated keys for ransomware for victims to take back control of their data and prevent themselves from becoming victims again. Mr. Delaney also emphasized that victims can find information through the Europol portal which can help them understand what they can do when they become a victim of cybercrime and how to prevent it from happening again. Mr. Delaney finished his interesting speech with the presentation of impressive work done by Europol in order to protect and support victims of cybercrime. We also learned that Europol has developed a strong campaign on sexual coercion and extortion. The videos used in campaign are available in different languages . 

VSE Executive Director Levent Altan closed the morning session with summary of guest speakers presentations stressing the specific needs of victims of cybercrime.

Mr . Altan also addressed the following:

  • Victims of cybercrime need to be made aware of what to do, how to do it and know that they are not alone.
  • Stakeholders need to collaborate better because cybercrime affects all aspects of our lives. We need to work out how to work with school, hospitals, insurance companies and employees. They can all be part of the solution.
  • We also need to think about the words we are using. Talking about revenge porn might be catchy but is blaming the victim at the first place.
  • There are very many different types of cybercrime and we need to talk and think about all of them to make sure no victim is forgotten.

Mr Altan’s speech was a perfect introduction for a short movie premiere. Named  the movie is created to help broaden access and awareness of support to victims of cybercrime. Movie is produced in collaboration between Transcendent Media Capital and Victim Support Europe with support of European Commission/DG Justice.

A panel discussion “What can we do to help victims in the immediate aftermath of an online crime?” with Jean-François Masselis from SIAVIC , Fiyaz Mughal from Faith Matters and Jukie de Bailliencourt from Facebook as panellists followed the movie premiere.

With their main conclusions panellists pointed that we shouldn’t underestimate trauma and shock one has from an online crime; The issues with social media companies have changed in the last years and they now act much more swiftly or give a response to the victim; Dealing with online hate crime needs speed, consistency, give victims the confidence that something will happen and they will be helped to deal with their trauma; Facebook has develop lots of tools for security, safety, privacy and reporting. Making a report is quick and easily accessible and The #RightToBeForgotten exists. People need to understand that social platforms are also there to help.

After the break the conference continued with guest speakers at the session “Supporting online victims in the short, medium and long term”. First speaker was Ann Moulds, Founder and CEO of Action Against Stalking. Being a victim of stalking herself in her speech she stressed several important things:

  • It is the impact on the victims that defines the seriousness of this crime.
  • It is a psychological crime of mental rape and torture.
  • In our world bullying is a young person’s problem. We do not use the word stalked – and we give them the sign that stalking is an adult problem.
  • We need to help children to know when they are victims of stalking.
  • We need to talk the same language. We need to harmonise our legislation on stalking across the Eu

MEP Miriam Dalli continued to talk about bullying in her speech pointing that before bullying took place on the playground. Nowadays cyber bullying follows children anywhere even places where parents think they are safe. The EU Member states and private companies must work together more on cybercrime and protect its victims. The new EU legislation on cybercrime should include a section on victims, concluded Ms Dalli.

Lennart Sörnsen, editor and press officer at JUUUPORT inspired the audience by talking about the amazing work of his organisation that facilitates online peer to peer platform where scouts provide information and support to other young people on cyber bullying and  cybercrime (for example A scout at JUUUPORT made a rap song about data protection . ‘It’s in German but it is catchy). Wonderful initiative with kids supporting kids with issues on Cyber bullying issues. Great work out of Germany, and we would love to see this concept rolled out in other countries.

Ine Giesbertz, Project Manager at Slachtofferhulp, Netherlands presented their new web site with simple and accessible information for victims on fraud and cybercrime where they are also providing tailored advice. Ms Giesbertz also pointed out that victims of cybercrime are not dumb. Victims are found everywhere, regardless social class, education or intelligence and feelings of shame and guilt in victims of cybercrime are tremendous that much that they are too ashamed to go to the police where they also risk secondary victimisation

Dr Helgard van Huellen Vice President of Victim Support Europe closed the conference with strong message that victims are at great risk of revictimisation with images and hate speech to resurface across the internet. Cooperation is needed across-borders because cybercrime doesn’t know any borders so we have to find solutions across Member States.

Photos from the conference are available in our gallery and the full movie #RightToBeForgotten is available online here.