EC3 chief: No barriers to cybercriminals' activity

The head of the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) says that there are no barriers to cyber-criminal activity, and warns that terrorists too are forging ahead in this area.

EC3 chief: No barriers to cybercriminals' activity
EC3 chief: No barriers to cybercriminals' activity

With 78 percent of Europe's total population now online, Troels Oerting, the head of EC3, says there will be four billion devices in the region connected to the Internet by the end of 2017, up significantly from the 2.7 billion devices hooked up by the end of last year.

This is, he told an audience in Barcelona on Tuesday, a significant security challenge that is being driven by the evolution to the 'internet of everything'.

"My role at the EC3 is to develop a strong and free internet," he said, adding that this is going to be a difficult task, as he also predicts there will be a lot more electronic crime around in 2017.

As we move to the 'internet of everything', he explained, we will soon reach the stage where cyber-criminals will be able to use the internet to attack anyone and anything and anywhere.

Speaking at the Check Point Experience partner event, Oerting - who is also the assistant director of Europol - said that, whilst in the real world criminals are limited by land territories, with cyberspace there are no such barriers, meaning that cyber-criminals have no need to travel to conduct their frauds.

The figures, he told his audience, make for interesting reading, not least the fact that 85 percent of the cyber-crime problem relates to Russian speakers, although he added that, as well as attacks on the Western world, his team are now seeing a steady number of attacks migrating over to the African continent, where the Internet is starting to evolve.

One of the challenges facing EC3, Europol and other law enforcement agencies, he said, is that on the darknet - which is increasingly being used by cyber-criminals – it is not possible to monitor what is happening effectively.

"Cyber-criminals also trade quite freely on the Darknet, using currencies such as Bitcoin to hide their cyber-criminal profits," he said, adding that state sponsored activity is also on the rise.

EC3 and Europol, he went on to say, is also seeing a steady rise in terror-related activities on the internet, largely because terrorists now have the facilities they are looking for, as well as the finance to drive attacks on the Internet.

Coupled with the fact that "any idiot" can now carry out an attack on the Internet, owing to the use of technology to assist them, Oerting says that the current crop of cyber attacks split neatly into two broad categories: [pure] cyber-attacks and cyber-facilitated attacks.

And it gets worse

Cyber-crime on the Internet covers a wide range of activities, says the EC3 head - who describes himself as "an experienced Danish police officer” - that now embraces grossly illegal practices, such as the rape of children and streaming of the videos on the web.

"I have seen baby rapes being streamed. This is very bad crime. We are also seeing child sexual exploitation on the internet," he said, adding that financial crime is also soaring.

In one card cloning incident involving the Bank of Oman, he says, the cyber-criminals cloned debit cards from the bank and then, after hacking into the servers of the financial institution and modifying the daily withdrawal limit, generated around 60 clones of the card to withdraw around £28 million in under two hours.

So how do we tackle cyber-crime? Oerting says that because the rise of the internet has been so rapid, there is now a pressing need to educate younger people - who form the next generation of users on the internet - about the dangers of the darker side of the web.

Even the good guys - such as EC3 and Europol – are struggling to keep up with what is happening – which, he adds, means that all law enforcement agencies need to work with the rest of the `good guy' internet, including businesses and other organisations, to ensure that everyone keeps up with the latest darkware developments on the net, and work steadily to tackle the problem.

"I have been a police officer for 34 years and have concluded that the security of the Internet is now a society problem," he said, adding that we - as a society - must work together to stop the pollution of the internet.