During the health crisis, activities related to cybercrime continue to increase, adapting their modus operandi to the citizens’ interest in seeking solutions to and information about the pandemic.
Crimes such as specific cyber activity or cyber-dependent crimes target the technological systems themselves, including the use of ransomware. Illicit access to financial data and the use of mobile devices and wifi networks without security awareness are the most common cybercrimes.
On-line fraud has increased in this period in parallel with the increase in online commercial activity in the lockdown period when shops are closed. We can clearly see the most common scams in real second-hand sales applications, the increased presence of organised crime through the creation of short-lived but very advanced real web pages and the false provision of technical services. The general modus operandi is based on a phone call where the cyber-fraudster convinces the victim to download software.
Other existing transverse criminal factors
- Cryptocurrencies for money laundering and as an object of crime through the theft of cryptocurrencies.
- The increase in financial cybermules for laundering criminal profits over the internet.
- The campaigns to incite and stir up trouble, by spreading fake news for the purposes of political and economic interference.
Criminal markets on the dark web appear to have declined in activity during the pandemic, primarily as a result of criminals’ difficulties in physically sourcing and distributing the object being traded.
The large criminal organisations seem to have temporarily suspended their laundering operations, due to the lack of mobility and the fall in economic activity. However, businesses’ financial difficulties form an ideal scenario for money laundering, since organised crime is given more opportunities to introduce the proceeds of their crimes into the legal economy. The sectors with the highest risk are services, tourism, hospitality and construction.
Some types of fraud and scams have also been directed at the use of the financial crisis as a cover for deceiving citizens and companies.
For example, falsely offering advice or offering to manage red tape in relation to cases of temporary lay-offs or false requests for aid and donations for charities and NGOs, false professional magazines, etc.
Social networks, applications and web pages have proliferated for the creation of amateur erotic or pornographic content by teenagers. Through photographs and videos of this kind, which are shared for circulation on the internet, users can even earn large amounts of money on specific platforms with a mechanism for monetising content for those who upload intimate or compromising images of themselves or who recruit others to do so.
Narcotic drugs during the pandemic
Drug consumption (especially those typically consumed in leisure areas that are now closed) and, therefore, their distribution at the retail level, has also been affected by the restrictions on movement and lockdown measures. In contrast, an increase has been detected in drug trafficking over the internet and social networks, distribution through postal mailings or personal “home deliveries” using the false cover of product distribution and authorised activities (such as taxi drivers and passenger transport vehicles).
Restrictions on movement and other activities have temporarily favoured wildlife and reduced pollution. In parallel, the animal origin of the virus has increased social awareness in favour of environmental protection and food control.
What should we consider in the future?
An unconscious relaxation by institutions and society is foreseeable, when, in fact, we are still in a serious situation. Therefore, it is preferable to emphasise the measures that can be taken to prevent the harmful effects of the pandemic and also the post-Covid crises.
It is advisable to:
- Carry out preventive campaigns against cybercrime, from basic security measures to raising awareness over the most serious crimes. This includes several prongs:
– The responsible use of IT and basic digital hygiene measures.
– Security against the theft of personal data and unauthorised use of personal information
– Electronic commerce and cryptocurrencies.
– The fight against the distribution of illegal material, especially relating to the sexual exploitation of minors.
- To build capacities against economic crime and its pernicious post-Covid effects:
– The need for financial investigation in all criminal investigations.
– The need to prepare specialised units against corruption.
– The need to control public actions for purchasing, contracting and social and business aid.
– The need to design national and regional strategies against corruption.
And last but not least, to develop national systems for the comprehensive protection of the environment, and to coordinate international initiatives.
This content is the sole responsibility of the EL PAcCTO programme, with information provided by the police networks covered by the programme, highlighting the contributions of the Spanish Civil Guard, the French National Police and including contributions from the Italian Carabinieri.