Cyber Criminals

EUROPOL – the European Union’s law enforcement agency – recently released its Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment for 2018.  This report sets out EURPOL’s perspectives on the present trends in these types of activities and proposes  recommendations for necessary reform in order to effectively police cyberspace.

 

What were EUROPOL’s key findings about current trends in cybercrime?

 

Cyber-dependent crime

According to EUROPOL, ransomware is the main malware threat in cyber-space.  EUROPOL also notes that crypto-mining malware – where a software program takes over a computer’s resources to mine cryptocurrency in online blockchain ledgers – is expected to increase in usage.  It was also noted that new legislation relating to data breaches would likely increase reporting of such activity.

 

Child sexual exploitation

Increased access to technology, including live streaming services, contributed to an expansion in the prevalence of child sexual exploitation material.  Further, encryption and anonymisation tools are presenting challenges to law enforcement.

 

Payment fraud

Skimming – where payment card data is stolen during a transaction then fraudulently used – remains a real threat, whilst point of sale terminals are being abused in evolving manners.

 

Online criminal markets

Whilst a number of large marketplaces on the dark web have been shut down or have spontaneously closed down, there has been an increase in the operations of smaller  markets.

 

Cyber-activity and terrorism

Islamic State continues to spread its terrorist propaganda on the internet, though its sympathisers have been pushed into using encrypted messaging services, the dark web, and other similar platforms.

 

Cross-cutting crime factors

According to EUROPOL, international fraudsters are adopting new and more sophisticated techniques to perpetrate their crime.  More ‘classic’ types of scams, such as phishing, technical support scams, advanced fee fraud, and romance scams remain a threat.  Further, cyber-attacks have moved to targeting businesses and cryptocurrencies.  Finally, EUROPOL states that developments in technology and the law have resulted in difficulties attributing and locating suspects in cybercrime activities.

 

What did EUROPOL recommend as potential reforms?

In its report, EUROPOL proposed recommendations relating to each of the above areas of cybercrime.  A number of those recommendations are highlighted below.

 

Cyber-dependent crime

  • Cooperation between international law enforcement agencies, private sector companies, and other stakeholders should be enhanced to combat malware attacks.
  • Awareness campaigns about the threats of cybercrime and how to report them could increase public knowledge of these issues and result in more accurate reporting of cybercrime.
  • Additional investigative and forensic tools would aid law enforcement deal with increasingly complex and sophisticated cybercrime.

 

Child sexual exploitation

  • Law enforcement should continue to work with payment companies to restrict and reduce the use of their services to pay for child sexual abuse and exploitation material online.
  • Investigations into child sexual exploitation should focus on high level targets, such as the administrators of online forums.
  • Educational prevention and awareness campaigns, including those aimed at younger children, should be promoted.

 

Payment fraud

  • In order to counter telecommunications fraud, there should be training and collaboration with the telecommunications industry.
  • Further, law enforcement and the private sector should collaborate to engage in joint action days targeted at combating fraud involving non-cash payments.

 

Online criminal markets

  • An effective countermeasure to these activities should be created, involving coordination, diversely experienced investigators, and additional training for personnel not involved in computer crime.
  • An international strategy to address the abuse of the dark web and other illicit trade platforms should be developed.

 

Cyber-activity and terrorism

  • A strategy should be developed that counters terrorist groups’ online propaganda and recruitment. This would require increased coordination and information-sharing between law enforcement agencies as well as the private sector (particularly online service providers).
  • An additional strategy should be developed that focuses on the ability of terrorist groups to carry out cyber-attacks.

 

Cross-cutting crime factors

  • Law enforcement should support prevention and awareness campaigns regarding educating potential victims about potential threats of social engineering.
  • As most social engineering scams are carried out by West-African organised crime groups, there should be stronger cooperation with those countries, including capacity building of law enforcement.
  • Nations should increasingly invest in the training and tools required to better their capacity to address cryptocurrency-related issues in investigations.

Nyman Gibson Miralis specialise in dealing with complex international cybercrime investigations. Contact us if you require assistance.