Technology has permeated all aspects of major criminal activity, according to Europol. In its latest report on serious and organised crimes, cybercrime makes it to the top of the five "priority crime threats". Crimes such as document fraud, money laundering, illegal goods traded online and more now pose major challenges to law enforcement authorities as organised crime groups incorporate advanced tech methods into their illegal activities.
Europol's report, titled Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA), states: "Cybercrime is a global phenomenon affecting all member states and is as borderless as the internet itself. The attack surface continues to grow as society becomes increasingly digitised, with more citizens, businesses, public services and devices connecting to the internet."
The report highlights that cyber-dependent crimes are based on "a mature Crime-as-a-Service model" that offers easy access to tools and services required to carry out cyberattacks. Dark web services such as RaaS, MaaS and DDoS-for-hire services could be considered perfect examples of Europol's Crime-as-a-Service (CaaS) module.
"This allows even entry-level cybercriminals to carry out attacks on a scale disproportionate to their technical capability. Criminal forums and marketplaces within the deep web or Darknet remain a crucial environment for cybercriminals to communicate and are a key component for CaaS," the report states.
The report also lists several types of cybercrime, including ransomware, malware network attacks, payment card fraud and online sexual exploitation, all of which now appear to be on the agency's radar as crimes that need to be monitored and mitigated.
Moreover, organised crime groups' increasing dependence on tech products and services such as the drug trade's use of drones for trafficking and robbers' use of social media to scout out vulnerable neighbourhoods to burgle, are also feared to be more commonplace in the near future.
"Given the ease of entry into cybercrime, the use of cyber tools and services by traditional OCGs [Organised Crime Groups] to enhance or expand their capabilities is likely to become more commonplace," Europol says in its report.
"These cross-cutting criminal threats enable and facilitate most, if not all, other types of serious and organised crime," the agency adds, indicating that technology is now at the forefront of major crimes and that law enforcement officials will likely be tasked with new challenges in addressing these issues.