On October 5th, Europol released their annual Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) 2020. The document is crucial in times of massive technological progression, and the enhanced use of technology by criminal organisations during the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, it outlines the relationship between cybercrime and matters of artificial intelligence (AI), human trafficking or the darkweb.
With the release of the IOCTA, Europol is attempting to raise awareness on the importance of civilians reporting any cases of cybercrime. By reporting these crimes, the public is enabling Europol to collect more data and make the necessary connections to shut down criminal organisations. Awareness of the findings of the IOCTA is particularly crucial as massive developments have been made by organised crime groups during the lockdown.
Developments in AI are often viewed as beneficial, however, they can’t be beneficial in the wrong hands. The IOCTA identifies that artificial intelligence can be used by criminal organisations to exploit new victims, optimise scams to be more time efficient and more profitable, as well as make their business models harder to identify, and therefore, reduce their chances of being caught.
AI can also make cybercrime more accessible to individuals with lower technical knowledge and expertise, thus encouraging more criminal activity. This can be done using AI malware, AI-based password guessing systems or AI-facilitated content creation, to name a few.
As the research and production of AIs continues, so must the awareness and understanding of all means this technology can be used for. However, we need to also remain positive that the technology can be used efficiently by law enforcement agencies to conduct online behaviour analysis, enhance authentication process and to detect threats.
Similarly to the AI, darkweb provides groups and individuals with lower technological abilities the necessary tools to commit crimes. The darkweb also continues to be the main platform used for transactions between criminal organisations, using cryptocurrency. These transactions are also linked to extortion scams, such as, sextortion, theft of data or Covid-19 related threats.
An example of criminal exploitation during the Covid-19 pandemic is the spread of fake news, in particular concerning cures and treatments for the virus. Criminal organisations have used the Clearnet and the Darkweb to facilitate those scams. These cases have highlighted a gap in law enforcement agencies procedures, as they do not tend to investigate cases of fake news.
The most recent Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment document released by Europol is an attempt to educate the public on the developments in the use of technology within the crime sector, as well as to encourage the reporting of cybercrimes. This is to ensure a more accurate representation of the threats being faced by the people within the EU, and to secure an appropriate response and distribution of resources.
To familiarise yourself with the most up-to-date threats please do not hesitate to access the latest cybercrime document, IOCTA 2020.