TechRepublic’s Dan Patterson spoke with Neil Walsh, Head of Cybercrime, Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Financing of Terrorism Department for the United Nations, about the impact and influence that the UN has on technology and cybersecurity.

Patterson: Neil Walsh, you are the head of Cyber Security for the United Nations. First, Neil, for the UN and for most people, (whether it’s here in the states or around the world), the UN has high brand recognition, and a low understanding of what the organization does. Help us understand, not just your role in the organization, but the organization’s role in terms of technology throughout the world.

Walsh: Great. Dan, thanks for giving me the time to come and speak with you today. I run the Counter-Cybercrime, the anti-money laundering and terrorist financing bit of the UN, based at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna, but we operate around the world.

So, what do we do? Why do we do it? You’re spot on in saying that often people don’t understand our relevance in this. Myself and my staff around the world, 55 staff in over 10 countries, deliver capacity building to cops, prosecutors, and judges.

We help to teach cops and prosecutors how to investigate cyberbased crime, money laundering, or terrorist financing. The whole point of that is not just to get criminal justice work done to take bad people off the street, but to help governments realize what that threat looks like, and what we can do to help them politically, through legislation, through reaction, to counter that threat.

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Patterson: Your background is in law enforcement. At the UN, you have all of these other levers that you can pull on. How do you work with other actors? State actors and NGOs, non-state actors, in order to not just protect citizens, but to protect rights, and to make sure that, like we see in this rise of cyber crime, to protect institutions?

Walsh: I guess, the advantage of the UN, is that we’re so broad. We have lots of different skills and lots of different bits of the business.

I’m in New York this week to work with lots of different bits of the business, our bit on political affairs, our Department of Political Affairs, public information, people like you who get that message out on what we do and why it’s important, working with peacekeeping operations, and lots of other bits of the business, because cyber related threat, be it crime, be it security risk, impacts on all of us, right?

If you get a security posture in a government, in an organization, in a business, you have to manage that risk down. If we help law enforces to do something about that, we help counter that risk though taking bad people away.

Most importantly, I think getting public recognition of what cyber-based risk is important, it keeps you safe online. It keeps your banking safe. It keeps business safe, and prosperity safe. It stops children being abused online, sexually. All of these bits come together to help society to grow.

In our role now, working with the Secretary General and his office, is to work out and establish which bits of the UN business can bring all of this together, bring all of our different skill sets, working with countries, countries from around the world, working with civil society organizations like NGOs, like charities, like academics, working out what is that key part of the UN.

What do we do that makes a real difference so that biggest possible impact with the least possible effort, to help countries and people to stay safe.