Europol claims growth of cybercrime “relentless”

29 Sep 2016

Europol said cybercrime is getting out of hand. Image: robert paul van beets/Shutterstock

Cybercrime is such a problem that, according to Europol, it’s surpassing traditional crime figures across Europe. The agency lists eight related trends for 2016.

All aspects of cybercrime are on an upward curve, and have been for some time, according to Europol’s annual threat report.

Called the 2016 Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA), it highlights an “expanding cybercriminal economy” that is entrenched in an increasingly internet-reliant age.

Europol cybercrime

The reports states that a number of EU countries may be at a point where reporting of cybercrime now outnumbers that of more traditional crimes.

Interestingly, attacks such as ransomware “have become the norm”, overshadowing traditional malware threats such as banking Trojans.

Though the expertise among cyber-criminals and cyberattacks has increased significantly, Europol pins the brunt of the problem on poor security standards and practice, both by individuals and companies.

“The relentless growth of cybercrime remains a real and significant threat to our collective security in Europe,” said Rob Wainwright, director of Europol.

“The growing misuse of legitimate anonymity and encryption services for illegal purposes remain a serious impediment to the detection, investigation and prosecution of criminals.”

The lengthy report cites eight key trends in cybercrime for 2016:


‘The digital underground is underpinned by a growing Crime-as-a-Service model that interconnects specialist providers of cybercrime tools and services with an increasing number of organised crime groups. Terrorist actors clearly have the potential to access this sector in the future.’


‘Ransomware and banking Trojans remain the top malware threats, a trend unlikely to change for the foreseeable future.’

The criminal use of data

‘Data remains a key commodity for cyber-criminals. It is procured for immediate financial gain in many cases but, increasingly, also acquired to commit more complex fraud, encrypted for ransom, or used directly for extortion.’

Payment fraud

‘EMV (chip and PIN), geo-blocking and other industry measures continue to erode card-present fraud within the EU, but logical and malware attacks directly against ATMs continue to evolve and proliferate. Organised crime groups are starting to manipulate or compromise payments involving contactless (NFC) cards.’

Online child sexual abuse

‘The use of end-to-end encrypted platforms for sharing media, coupled with the use of largely anonymous payment systems, has facilitated an escalation in the live streaming of child abuse.’

Abuse of the Darknet

‘The Darknet continues to enable criminals involved in a range of illicit activities, such as the exchange of child sexual exploitation material. The extent to which extremist groups currently use cyber techniques to conduct attacks are limited, but the availability of cybercrime tools and services, and illicit commodities such as firearms on the Darknet, provides opportunity for this to change.’

Social engineering

‘An increase of phishing aimed at high value targets has been registered by enforcement private sector authorities. CEO fraud, a refined variant of spear phishing, has become a key threat.’

Virtual currencies

‘Bitcoin remains the currency of choice for the payment for criminal products and services in the digital underground economy and the Darknet. Bitcoin has also become the standard payment solution for extortion payments.’

Europol. Image: robert paul van beets/Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic