IOCTA 2023: cybercrime has become big business

According to the Europol report on the evolution of cybercrime from a law enforcement perspective, we need to move away from the cliché of a lone, hooded figure typing on a computer and adapt to the current and future reality: groups of criminals operating as commercial syndicates beyond the front lines.

The ninth edition of Europol’s Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) takes an in-depth look at the online criminal ecosystem and examines the prominent players, their attack vectors and the role of victims.

The realm of cybercrime has transformed into a lucrative industry, complete with a clandestine economy that sustains it through support from service providers, recruiters, and financial facilitators. The rise of cyberattacks presents a daunting challenge for law enforcement as multiple specialised actors from around the world complicate the investigation process.

Europol’s IOCTA strives to offer insights into contemporary cybercrime, empowering law enforcement with the necessary knowledge to combat it effectively. This document and the accompanying modules are based on operational information provided to Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, combined with expert knowledge and open-source intelligence. The focus and structure of the report is as follows:

  • Cybercrime services are intertwined and their effectiveness is co-dependent.
  • Similar techniques for different objectives.
  • The core product is stolen data.
  • Same victims, multiple crimes.
  • Clandestine communities to educate and recruit cybercriminals.
  • What happens to the criminal proceeds?
  • Europol’s support.

The current summary presents the main findings on the different typologies of cybercrime, i.e. cyberattacks, online fraud schemes and online child sexual exploitation.

With this latest study presented by Europol, it is clear that cybercrime, in its various forms, represents a growing threat to the European Union.

Cyberattacks, online child sexual exploitation and online fraud are very complex crimes that manifest themselves in very diverse typologies. Criminals continue to show high levels of adaptability to new technologies and societal developments, while constantly improving their cooperation and specialisation.

Cybercrime is wide-ranging and causes very serious harm to public and private individuals, organisations and the EU’s economy and security.


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