Dark web black markets turning mobsters into cyber crooks

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Organised criminal groups are leveraging dark web services, cyber black markets and crypto currencies to digitise their real-world money laundering, information theft and child pornography operations, according to Europol.

The Europol European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) issued the warning in its 2014 Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (iOCTA) claiming it has seen an influx of previously offline criminal groups join the digital revolution over the past year.

“A professional, continuously evolving service-based criminal industry drives the innovation of tools and methods used by criminals and facilitates the digital underground through a multitude of complementary services, extending the attack capacity to those otherwise lacking the skills,” read the report.

“Traditional organised crime groups (OCGs), including those with a mafia-style structure are beginning to use the service-based nature of the cyber crime market to carry or more sophisticated crimes [by] buying access to the skills they require.”

The report highlighted that the groups are also leveraging legitimate anonymising tools and crypto currencies to hide their movements from law enforcement.

“Dark nets and other environments offering a high degree of anonymity are increasingly hosting hidden services, and market places devoted to traditional types of crime, such as the drug trade, selling stolen goods, weapons, compromised credit card details, forged documents, fake IDs and the trafficking of human beings,” read the document.

“Child sex offenders and producers make increasing use of the dark net and other similar areas. New forms of child sexual exploitation online such as the live streaming of on-demand abuse of children present new challenges for law enforcement.”

Dark web services are found on sites that do not index on the regular open internet and are hidden on anonymising networks, such as Tor.

The report highlighted the threat to European business as being particularly pressing, warning key technology developments such as the Internet of Things (IoT), referred to in the report as the Internet of Everything, will offer new opportunities to criminals.

“The advent of the Internet of Everything, combined with the ever-increasing number of internet users globally creates a broader attack surface, new attack vectors and more points of entry,” read the report.

“The EU will remain a key target for cyber crime activities because of its relative wealth, high degree of internet penetration, its advanced internet infrastructure and increasingly internet-dependent economies and payment systems.”

Europol said law enforcement will have to work with third parties to facilitate the sharing of threat data and develop advanced new anti-cyber crime tools to deal with the increased threat.

“Law enforcement needs to invest in capacity building with a view to acquiring the necessary skills, expertise, knowledge and tools to perform cyber crime investigations, big data analysis and Internet of Everything-related forensics,” read the report.

“The dynamic, evolving and transnational nature of cyber crime demands and equally diverse and flexible response by law enforcement in close international strategic and operational partnership with all relevant stakeholders. Public and private partnerships and co-operation and co-ordination with all relevant stakeholders, including the academic community, will play an increasingly important role.”

Europol has been a constant proponent of information-sharing when combatting cyber threats. EC3 signed a memorandum of understanding with the European Banking Federation (EBF), pledging to co-operate when combating cyber threats earlier in September.

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