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. Criminals have been quick to abuse the current circumstances to increase profits, spreading their tentacles to various areas and exposing vulnerabilities, connected to systems, hospitals or 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.
In addition to expanding the efforts to tackle these threats from a law enforcement perspective, it is crucial to add another level of protection in terms of cybersecurity. The implementation of measures such as multi-factor authentication and vulnerability management are of utmost importance to decrease the possible exposure to cyber threats. Awareness raising and prevention are key components in reducing the effectiveness of cyberattacks and other cyber enabled criminal activities.
The key threats:
- Ransomware affiliate programs enable a larger group of criminals to attack big corporations and public institutions by threatening them with multi-layered extortion methods such as DDoS attacks.
- Mobile malware evolves 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 new edition of Europol’s Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment, launched today, looks into the (r)evolutionary development of these trends, catalysed by the expanded digitalisation of recent years. The report was presented during the Europol-INTERPOL Cybercrime Conference. The conference gathered about 100 experts together to share their insights into the latest cybercrime trends and threats and to discuss how innovation is essential in countering cybercrime acceleration.