Covid-19 lockdowns push organised gang crime online says UK’s top cyber cop

News by Andrew McCorkell

Organised criminal networks have been forced online to find new sources of cash because transporting drugs and committing robberies have become almost impossible, a chief constable says.

County-lines criminals and organised gangs have woken up to the relatively low risk-high reward of cybercrime when compared to “using a shotgun to rob a bank” according to Peter Goodman, chief constable for the Derbyshire Constabulary,  National Lead for Cyber Crime and for Serious and Organised Crime, National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC). 

Goodman made the comparison during a briefing to the Security Awareness Special Interest Group (SASIG) this week when he updated the cybersecurity community, providing his unique perspective on global trends in cybercrime, and the challenges of policing during the Covid-19 crisis. 

“We’ve seen that traditional criminality, particularly organised criminality, turning their hand to the digital world in a way that they haven’t before. We always knew that at some point organised crime would start to understand that crime over the internet, cyber-enabled, cyber- dependent crime, is a lot less risky and the rewards are a lot greater than going across the pavement with a shotgun and breaking into a bank.” Police have thought for some time that eventually these gangs would move online to look for sources of illicit cash.

“We kind of knew organised crime would turn their hand to that, and indeed some had done so already. We’ve got some substantive evidence that more and more are using it as a means of making money during the course of the crisis,” Goodman added.

“Whether it be phishing email campaigns, selling hoax protective equipment or a cure to Covid-19, all kinds of scams are out there online. Some are cyber-dependent, some are just scams taking place over the internet.

"But we’ve got a really good insight into organised criminals who are using [these methods] either as a temporary means of carrying out their business or as a permanent change of methodology going forward."

“If you are a county-lines criminal, if you are an organised criminal who has a group of vulnerable people who you are using to deliver and transport and make available drugs throughout the country, that’s pretty difficult when the transport infrastructure isn't working as it was before. But the organised criminals still want and need the money and they will use whatever means possible. So we have seen a move online.”

At least one person who has been found and arrested in Manchester for trying to use a Covid-19 related attack on the NHS as part of a criminal investigation. 

“We have also seen interesting international trends during this period of time that may mean state enablement of state permitted activity may change in nature in the future as well.” 

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