2020 cybercrime report

Europol published its Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) last October. The IOCTA seeks to inform decision makers on a strategic, tactical and operational level about the threats posed by cybercrime. The 2020 IOCTA helps to set the priorities for the 2021 operational action plans, which follow the three priorities defined below:

1) To interrupt criminal activities related to computer system attacks.

2) To fight against the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children, including the production and transfer of material.

3) To target criminals involved in fraud and counterfeiting of non-cash payment methods, including large-scale payment card fraud (especially non-card fraud), emerging threats for other non-cash payment methods and the possibility of activities.

In addition, the IOCTA seeks to consolidate findings on current cyberthreats, which could contribute to the discussion on research and development priorities as well as planning on an EU level.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the unfortunate potential of this crisis on our daily lives around the world. As physical boundaries became the norm, cybercrime has become more prominent than ever before. In any case, the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how cybercrime remains the same. However, cybercriminals are adapting the specific characteristics of their approach to the social context with a view to improving their success rate. The difference with COVID-19 is that, owing to the physical restrictions implemented in order to prevent the spread of the virus, which led to an increase in people working from home and accessing business resources remotely, many people and companies, who did not previously hold such an online presence, are now a lucrative target.

Traditional cybercrimes, such as phishing and cyber-skill scams, quickly exploited social vulnerabilities, with many citizens and businesses seeking information, answers and sources of help during this time. The spread of misinformation increases the chance of cybercrime occurring. The pandemic also gave rise to misinformation campaigns and activities.

Social engineering remains a major threat in the facilitation of other kinds of cybercrimes. The use of encrypted chat applications and industry proposals to expand this market entails a substantial risk of abuse, and makes it difficult for law enforcement agencies to detect and investigate criminal activity online.

Online communities of cybercriminals present considerable resistance and are continually evolving. Finally, live streaming of child sexual abuse continues to increase, and has become even more frequent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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