“Border security.” These simple words make us feel safe. If we close our eyes we can almost see the steely-eyed men and women who stand at the vanguard—carefully protecting us from the smugglers, terrorists, and untold criminal activities that threaten to flow across our borders and endanger our safety.

To a large extent, that description (minus the steely-eyed image, perhaps) rings true for the thousands of agents who protect border crossings, ports, and airports worldwide every day. It’s a tough job. And with the world now more connected than ever through connected devices, that job is getting tougher.

The Challenge

The smartphones and other devices all of us rely on every day sit right at the center of the perfect storm of border problems. Bad guys rely on connected devices and cloud data for everything related to breaching our borders, from smuggling narcotics and wildlife to trafficking children and fake COVID-19 vaccines.

Even those with more innocent motives, whose only reason to cross a border illegally may be to escape famine, joblessness, or persecution, are inextricably tied to their mobile devices, whether it’s to communicate with family members left behind or to contact those ahead who they pray will ferry them to a better life.

The volume of phones showing up in border agency labs for examination is daunting. CBS reports that in the US alone, “Border agents inspected 30,200 phones and other devices last year [2018]— an increase of nearly 60 percent from 2016.”

When you consider the mountains of data each of those devices generates—data that’s clogging the databases of every agency on earth—the problem of solving the digital deluge that’s burying border agencies everywhere may seem insurmountable. But it’s not.

We have the technology to remedy the problem. In fact, at no time in history have we ever been better positioned technologically to help agencies take the offensive on border crimes. But winning the digital battle at our borders is going to take more than just great tech. Border managers (and those who control government purse strings) need to accept the fact that their agencies need to undergo a fundamental transformation to maximize digital intelligence (DI) and reinvent the way border security investigations are handled.

This blog will provide an understanding of the basic challenges facing border agencies today and why utilizing DI is so important.

Let’s get started.

What’s Happening Now

The paradigm shift we believe agencies must embrace is being driven by three factors:

  1. Information: Data is the most valuable asset border agencies have. To take full advantage of the information (and valuable evidence) that lies buried under the mountains of data agencies are accumulating, they must move away from gathering physical evidence and concentrate on collecting digital

  2. Efficiency: Agency managers must wrap their heads around the fact that their ability to remain nimble and work more efficiently in the future is predicated on digital technologies, border infrastructure, and large-scale IT systems that need to be implemented now.

  3. Convergence: Border management, migration management, and internal security are rapidly converging. Modern border agencies must have systems and processes in place to not only collect, manage, and analyze data to gain actionable intelligence, they must also have the means to collaborate and share that information both internally and externally with other departments and agencies.

The New Paradigm

There is a need for a paradigm shift in border management, which has historically built cases on physical assets, to building cases based on digital assets. Agencies must also move away from the siloed approach to problem-solving of the past to the more integrated approach of the future through collaboration and the exchange of information and ideas.

Digital technologies will be a key enabler and success factor in this change. However, deployment and use of these new capabilities will only be useful if agencies recognize that the information, operational, and technical silos created in the past are no longer viable for managing our borders today and tomorrow.

A Look Ahead

As Argentina’s border guard force, Singapore PD, and other forward-leaning agencies are proving, there is a clear path forward based on a new, integrated information architecture and ecosystem that border management can follow.

As a recent article by Ray Batt in Border Management Today makes clear, the answer lies in “a consolidated approach to targeting both people and goods in order to deliver a multi-modal, cross-domain, risk assessment platform. This should leverage state-of-the-art technology with more effective integrated tools for dark-web intelligence analysis and dissemination.”

In our next post, we’ll take a look at what establishing a new ecosystem based on a digital intelligence strategy really means and the best practices for building the kind of platform border agencies need now to reap the maximum efficiencies and benefits from DI tomorrow.

Download the eBook “Solving Your Border Challenges with Digital Intelligence” to learn more about how Cellebrite’s digital intelligence solutions for border security can help your organization.

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