For the first time, Europol has awarded the Europol Excellence Award in Innovation during the annual European Police Chiefs Convention 2021. With this award, Europol recognizes the law enforcement community’s most innovative initiatives and operations.
Over the past weeks, 105 nominations from law enforcement organizations across 25 nations in Europe and beyond have reached Europol, out of which two have been selected – one award for the most innovative law enforcement project and one award for the most innovative law enforcement operation.
Europol’s Executive Director Catherine De Bolle said innovation is at the heart of modern policing. “Having received over 105 nominations, we consider this first Europol Excellence Award in Innovation a great success. Therefore, we want to turn it into a recurrent project linked to the annual European Police Chiefs Convention at our headquarters. Our Innovation Lab team will also create a network and invite all nominees for a follow-up event to exchange innovative ideas.”
The Excellence Award for the most Innovative Project:
- Fortnite undercover avatar: an innovative tool to fight child abuse online (French Police Nationale) – A creative approach based on the creation of an online avatar in the video game Fortnite to which children could report if they were sexually harassed at home. After validation from the Central Unit for Minors Protection within the Central Directorate of the Judiciary Police, a team of 50 volunteers and psychologists connected to the game 14 hours a day, seven days a week from April to May 2020 to assist children asking for help. During this period, 1,200 children asked for help, out of which thirty percent were in a dire situation. Investigations were opened in a number of cases, and the children safeguarded.
The Excellence Award for the most Innovative Operation:
- EMOTET: world’s most dangerous malware disrupted through global action (U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation) – from 2014, the Emotet malware-infected millions of computers worldwide—enabling cybercriminals to steal victim information, cripple compromised networks and cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. Emotet targeted critical industries, including banking, e-commerce, healthcare, academia, government, and technology, and was designed to deliver additional malware to infected computers. In January 2021, the Netherlands, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Lithuania, Canada and Ukraine, Europol and Eurojust coordinated a multinational operation to disrupt Emotet’s infrastructure. By using lawful authorities in several countries to seize command & control servers, neutralize malware distribution servers, and untether thousands of victim computers from the botnet. They also alerted authorities in more than 50 countries that Internet companies hosted hundreds of Internet Protocol addresses that Emotet compromised in their respective jurisdictions.
The Europol Excellence Award in Innovation highlights how effective modern-day law enforcement requires partnership and collaboration, whether in teams of officers and staff, between forces, in multi-agency operations or through wider public sector involvement.
The award also recognizes that accomplishments arise from a blend of innovative, committed and well-trained personnel, serving, engaging and protecting the public while using technology efficiently and effectively. Europol hopes the award will inspire the European law enforcement community by providing insights into successful innovation.
Europol was mandated by the Justice and Home Affairs ministers from all the EU Member States at the end of 2019 to create an Innovation Lab to support the law enforcement community in innovation. The Lab aims to identify, promote and develop innovative concrete solutions supporting the EU Member States’ operational work. These will help investigators and analysts to make the most of the opportunities offered by new technologies to avoid duplication of work, create synergies and pool resources. The activities of the Lab are directly linked to the strategic priorities as laid out in Europol Strategy 2020+, which states that Europol shall be at the forefront of law enforcement innovation and research.