Whether we like it or not, Covid-19 has dominated the global scene in 2020. It has caused the health sector to become overwhelmed, affected the global economy. It led to a large population of people being on furlough, while small businesses had to rely on government support. With questions of how to continue the education of the youth, protecting populations and supporting businesses through the restrictions and lockdowns, the spotlight has been on the government and their handling of the pandemic.
As the priority for government spendings has shifted, the terrorist threat has increased. With the threat being at ‘high level’ in many countries, and numerous experiencing an attack.
On November 11th 2020, Europol published a report on ‘How COVID-19-related crime infected Europe during 2020’. This article will outline the main findings of the report as means of spreading awareness and allowing individuals to protect themselves from the evolving security threats within the EU.
Cybercrime continues to be the most affected area of criminal activity – with people having to rely on technology and the internet more and more during the pandemic. The criminal minds did not hesitate to adapt their criminal activities to the pandemic.
A significant rise has been noted in attempts to access blocked child pornography sites. This is linked to schools going online in most cases. Europol has received reports of children being targeted and exploited by criminals via Zoom and video conferencing networks alike.
The distribution of Covid-19 protection and prevention products continues to be a constantly growing area of criminal activity. These would range from personal protective equipment to fake home tests and even alleged vaccines.
Another fraud scheme involved the criminals claiming to be health professionals on the phone to individuals saying their family member is in critical need of medical attention that requires a payment. Some people have also received phone calls encouraging them to invest in Covid-related services and products as means of making some quick cash. Alternatively, criminals have been impersonating police officers giving out on-the-spot fines for individuals not wearing masks.
The expert analysis of the recent spike in jihadist attacks indicates that they were not influenced by Covid, in fact those match the patterns outlined in the Europol’s terrorism threat assessment, which pre-dates the pandemic outbreak. These groups have however used the pandemic to advance their ideological and political agendas, as well as reinforcing already established narratives.
It is crucial to outline that the socio-economic struggles being inflicted upon the global population can and, most likely, will be used as recruitment tools by criminal and terrorist organisations.
Overall, the economic downfall the world is experiencing as a result of the current pandemic will likely continue to fuel criminal activity as the predators will carry on taking adventure of those most vulnerable. As the world around us changes, the criminal world advances their methods and strategies. Therefore, it is important for us to remain safe and look out for those around us to make sure they do not become a victim of any of the illegal activities mentioned in the report.