The challenge of cross-border crime and how to tackle it

7 October, 2020

Authored by Dave Ranner, CameraForensics, and Colm Gannon, Pathfinder Labs

The challenge of cross-border crime and how to tackle it

The rise of global connectivity and digitisation may have introduced greater online threats, but it’s also created opportunities for ethical communities to collaborate, and we need to take advantage of it.

Collaboration to build an interoperable, supportive network between agencies doing good will be the only way we can win the fight against global crime. It’s up to NGOs, LEAs, private investigators, and technology providers alike to join under a shared ambition and make this happen.


It takes a network to defeat a network.

The online criminal world is getting bigger, smarter and stronger. So, when organisations fighting crime work in isolation, it only benefits criminals. As malicious actors band together to evade detection, the people fighting them need to do the same.

When organisations who want to tackle these challenges join forces, they have more resources, brainpower, and capabilities. Creating a network of NGOs, LEAs, investigators, and technology providers therefore strengthens everyone’s position to make a difference and extend their impact.


Crime, especially online, doesn’t respect regional borders or jurisdictions. However LEAs don’t always have the same luxury.

Here are several challenges LEAs experience when working across borders:

  • Jurisdictions: LEAs either don’t have authority in a region relevant to their case or some specifics of a crime they are investigating may not be illegal in different jurisdictions.

  • Imagery Categorising: Different agencies, organisations or countries may categorise their illegal imagery, such as CSE, differently. This can introduce barriers to what data or knowledge can be shared between groups.

  • Technology: Tools and technological solutions that different groups use during an investigation aren’t always compatible with each other. This again can make sharing information or resources very difficult.

These barriers can be detrimental to the progression of a case and can ultimately stand in the way of positive resolutions. Creating partnerships that can span borders is therefore critical to having a successful impact on global issues. When positive groups combine their efforts, it empowers people with a complete viewpoint of an investigation and a wider network with whom they can take action.

Technology providers who collaborate play a key part in helping achieve this global network or ecosystem.

By developing tools with organisations in other fields or different countries, tech providers can increase interoperability from the beginning to maximise user access to the intelligence they need. If companies worked to a shared standard for their solutions, they could enable seamless integration capabilities such as interchangeability of metadata information between agencies.

This kind of global collaboration has huge benefits for the end user and the victims they’re helping – saving time, resources, and investments of investigators, so they can complete cases more efficiently.


But within this ecosystem objective, finding people who share your ethics and ethos always needs to remain a priority.

In our industry, the primary goal is to do what’s right for the technology users, help them to safeguard victims of crime and make positive change for people online. When you work with people who share this mission the result is a more collaborative and open approach that enables us to pull all the pieces of the puzzle together.

Getting support from a like-minded ecosystem helps us stay on course within our mission and to more effectively reach our goal.


CameraForensics and Pathfinder Labs officially partnered in 2019 to stand together against online criminal activity such as digital child trafficking, online grooming and child victimisation online.

We do this by creating a relationship of communication and support. We help each other build and develop new capabilities, share our resources, integrate our tools wherever we can, and offer new perspectives of intelligence to aid our respective growth.

Colm explains; “We met at a Victim ID training course for police in 2017. I had been using the CameraForensics tools but hearing the guys speak about their platform really helped understand the full potential of what they could help achieve.

When we set up Pathfinder Labs we wanted to move away from the restrictions of the public sphere, to collaborate with the tech industry and create better tools. The CameraForensics team were great mentors at this time, motivating us with the advice to think big and focus on trusting relationships.”

Dave continues; “Coming from a government background, the Pathfinder Labs team really understood the challenges that our users face. They completely shared the same mission we aim towards which is to do everything we can to make the best solutions possible.

We really respected each other’s work and felt the partnership was a great opportunity to share perspectives and learn from one another.”

Currently, the organisations are collaborating on a new project; CameraForensics is performing research on new digital investigative techniques for which Pathfinder Labs are collecting and contributing the data. This is allowing the use of real-world data to inform technological development, to provide government with more effective tools to combat key challenges.


And it’s not just us – in fact far from it. There is a brilliant global ecosystem constantly working to strengthen relationships, integration, and awareness between organisations.

The DevOps initiative is a large-scale event, coordinated by Interpol, that takes place every six months in different countries. It invites NGOs, LEAs, and private organisations from all over the world to come together, build relationships and support each other’s development.

For many investigators and technology providers alike, this represents a rare and valuable opportunity to collaborate with people who can offer different perspectives and skills. Law enforcement professionals can work closely with technical experts to address their real-world challenges with real-world solutions, together contributing to a network that makes genuine progress and impact.

This ecosystem has had huge benefits for the industry, with many direct outputs of the DevOps events being used by law enforcement every day. But there is always more to do, and the network is always expanding for the benefit of the attendees and the victims they’re helping.


The network we’re a part of is always evolving with more partners joining forces with the goal of making a greater positive impact. Both CameraForensics and Pathfinder Labs work with various other organisations under a shared mission to achieve the best outcomes we can and make our society a better place.

Some of these amazing organisations include:

If you’d like to find out more about our work or how you can get involved, get in touch.

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