Europol Executive Director Rob Wainwright

On April 12, 2018, the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security (CCHS) welcomed Europol’s outgoing Executive Director Rob Wainwright at the Elliott School of International Affairs to reflect on the Director’s nine-year tenure at Europol and the evolving transnational security threats facing his institution, the European Union (EU), and its Member States. Throughout his speech and subsequent conversation with CCHS Director Frank Cilluffo, Mr. Wainwright consistently emphasized the evolution of threats facing the EU from nation-specific to being transnational in nature, and the consequential importance of transnational, multilateral solutions.

In terms of the evolution of EU threat dynamics, Mr. Wainwright observed that "this is one of the most dangerous periods of terrorism that the European continent has ever suffered", and that "the fundamentals of that threat are still there." To illustrate the point, he cited that in the last year alone, Europol has "been involved in over 400 counter-terrorism operations." Further, from a cyber standpoint, he noted that Europol is "seeing denial of service attacks of 1.7 terabytes per second -- an enormous scale", in addition to "direct and aggressive targeting of highest-value targets." 

Against this background, Mr. Wainwright highlighted the transformation of Europol into the epicenter of transnational and multilateral European-based security efforts. Noting that the transnational nature of crime today requires an adaptation of current responses, the outgoing Director emphasized the importance of leveraging the power of available data, networks, and technology, in order to expand upon Europol’s abilities to respond to crime and terrorism. The nature and impact of globalization, in conjunction with technological developments and the rise of the "Internet of things", he noted, has opened opportunities for terrorist and transnational criminal organizations to exploit travel, social media, and Internet-based business, communications, and transactions. Correlatively, today Europol is "analyzing nine times as much information as almost a decade ago". By comparison, its budget has only increased two-fold, however.

Looking forward, Mr. Wainwright noted that terrorism, the phenomenon of foreign fighters, and cyber-related criminal activities would continue to present challenges not only to the EU, but also to the entire world. During his tenure as Director, Mr. Wainwright has overseen Europol’s establishment and implementation of the principles of accountability, transparency, and proportionality, as applied to data usage and information sharing; worked towards the establishment of specialized centers, including the European Cybercrime Centre and the European Counter Terrorism Centre, which have elevated Europol’s transnational security threat response capabilities; and, facilitated significant trust-building between the population and Europol by staying true to the institution’s priorities of upholding data security and protection while also facilitating transatlantic cooperation and coordination to better protect citizens of the Member States and their partners.
Major cyber threats to Europe include the use of unregulated cryptocurrencies, money laundering, criminal services being offered online, malware campaigns used by transnational criminal organizations and state-sponsored hackers, and the eased facilitation of communications between terrorist organizations and increased recruitment. With this threat climate in mind Mr. Wainwright emphasized that the EU has established, and should continue to establish, initiatives between universities, governments, and the private sector to narrow the gap between supply and demand for cybersecurity talent, which will facilitate continued improvements to cybersecurity in today’s threat environment.
In his discussion with Frank Cilluffo, Mr. Wainwright placed emphasis on transatlantic and public-private partnerships in facilitating Europol’s ability to best respond to various threats posed to the EU and its allies and partners. By way of example, Mr. Wainwright referenced that Europol has worked with the United States, including on terrorist finance and travel tracking; and that 82,000 intelligence leads have been generated by that program. To further fill the gap between transnational problems and inadequate national-level solutions, Mr. Wainwright also praised Europol’s coordination with the United States, which has led to the embedment of 38 U.S. law enforcement officers at Europol headquarters in The Hague, and rendered Europol a nucleus for law enforcement agencies engaged in transnational crime mitigation.
Mr. Wainwright will be joining Deloitte’s cybersecurity practice as a senior partner in June 2018, where he will facilitate responses and solutions to the growing systemic transnational threats posed in the cyber realm.

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