Extent of Cybercrime Increase in Wake of Covid Crisis Revealed

Extent of Cybercrime Increase in Wake of Covid Crisis Revealed

The accelerated digitalisation related to the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly influenced the development of a number of cyber threats, according to the new edition of Europol’s Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment.

The new edition of the Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment, launched today, looks into the development of these trends, catalysed by the expanded digitalisation of recent years. The report was presented during the Europol-INTERPOL Cybercrime Conference in the Hague. The conference gathered about 100 experts together to share their insights into the latest cybercrime trends and threats.

Criminals have been quick to abuse the Covid-19 crisis to increase profits, spreading their reach and exposing vulnerabilities, connected to systems, hospitals and individuals. While ransomware groups have taken advantage of widespread teleworking, scammers have abused COVID-19 fears and the fruitless search for cures online to defraud victims or gain access to their bank accounts.

The increase of online shopping in general has attracted more fraudsters. With children spending a lot more time online, especially during lockdowns, grooming and dissemination of self-produced explicit material have increased significantly. Grey infrastructure, including services offering end-to-end encryption, VPNs and cryptocurrencies continue to be abused for the facilitation and proliferation of a large range of criminal activities. This has resulted in significant challenges for the investigation of criminal activities and the protection of victims of crime.

The Key Threats identified in the Assessment include:

  • Ransomware affiliate programs enabling a larger group of criminals to attack big corporations and public institutions by threatening them with multi-layered extortion methods such as DDoS attacks.
  • The evolution of Mobile malware with criminals trying to circumvent additional security measures such as two-factor authentication.
  • Online shopping has led to a steep increase in online fraud.
  • Explicit self-generated material is an increasing concern and is also distributed for profit.
  • Criminals continue to abuse legitimate services such as VPNs, encrypted communication services and cryptocurrencies.

The Assessment found that in addition to expanding efforts to tackle these threats from a law enforcement perspective, it is crucial to add another level of protection in terms of cybersecurity, citing multi-factor authentication and vulnerability management measures as key. Awareness raising and prevention are also key components in reducing the effectiveness of cyberattacks and other cyber enabled criminal activities.

Europol’s Executive Director Catherine De Bolle said, “Worldwide operations, such as the successful takedown of EMOTET botnet, have demonstrated the effectiveness of international cooperation. Ransomware groups have attempted to disrupt critical infrastructures, such as service providers and government institutions, to increase their profits with no concern for the possible damages such interceptions may cause to public safety and security. To this, the collective response of our international law enforcement community is clear: the authorities and the private sector worldwide stand strong and ready to mitigate together any threat that blackmails the stability of our societies.”

Image by perspec-photo88/Via creativecommons/CC BY-SA 2.0

 

Antoinette Tyrrell is a writer and journalist who started her career in print and broadcast journalism in Ireland. An English and History graduate of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, she worked for 11 years in corporate public relations for Irish Government bodies in the Foreign Direct Investment and Energy sectors.

She is the founder of GoWrite, a business writing and public relations consultancy. Her work has appeared in a range of national and international media and trade publications. She is also a traditionally published novelist of commercial fiction.

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