Europol says the EU is now a key cybercrime target

And, says the European Union law enforcement agency, as internet connectivity continues to spread, EU citizens and organisations will be subjected both to a larger volume of cyber-attacks, and to attacks from previously underconnected areas of the world.

In its Threat Assessment on Internet Facilitated Organised Crime – iOCTA – report, the agency says that EU member states already rank amongst the most highly infected countries in the world when it comes to computer viruses and malware.

Against this backdrop, the police agency says that combating cybercrime will therefore require new international strategic and operational partnerships.

In connection with this, Europol says that active partnerships with the private sector are now essential, not only to share intelligence and evidence, but also in the development of technical tools and measures for law enforcement to prevent online criminality.

The academic community, the agency adds, also has an important part to play in the research and development of such measures.

Internet users are also a part of the equation, as the report says that awareness raising about individual and corporate user responsibilities are now key to combating cybercrime.

"EU-wide awareness raising and points of contact are required for a range of issues, including illegal downloading, social engineering, payment card security, securing wireless internet connections, and the risks to children", says the report.

"The use of crowdsourcing to gather intelligence on cybercrime from internet users should also be considered", it adds.

The report concludes that, because of the pace of technological development that cybercrime exhibits, law enforcement agencies need to factor this into their strategic planning in order to ensure that there are sufficient resources and skills to meet future threats.

There is now, it adds, a dynamic relationship between online and offline organised crime: control measures applied in one environment may displace crime into another, whilst new opportunities may cause criminals to turn away from higher-risk activities.

Such flexibility, says Europol, demands that investigators be equally aware of the online and offline environments in which criminals operate.

"Given the role of social engineering in current criminal business models, awareness raising and the engendering of individual and corporate user responsibility are key to combating cybercrime", says the report.

"EU-wide awareness raising programmes are now required for illegal downloaders who are unaware of the downloaded resources inked with organised crime, as well as for individuals on the subject of social engineering", it adds.

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