More than 5000 international Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) with over 180 nationalities are currently under investigation in the EU.
Europol's Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment 2017 (SOCTA) reveals that the number of organised crime groups that are involved in more than one criminal activity has increased over the last years (45 percent compared to 33 percent in 2013).
“Europol has been able to use its singular intelligence capability as the European information hub for criminal intelligence to analyse and identify the key crime threats facing the EU,” said Rob Wainwright, director at Europol.
EU member states, cooperation partners outside the EU and institutional partners contributed more than 2300 questionnaires on crime areas and OCGs.
In what is now, perhaps, the greatest challenge that law enforcement authorities around the world and the EU face, criminals are deploying and adapting technology with ever greater skill and to ever greater effect. Many criminal activities are increasingly complex and require a variety of skills as well as technical expertise to carry out.
The development and distribution of malware continues to be the cornerstone for the majority of cyber-crime. Malware that steals information, such as banking Trojans, still represent a significant threat.
Cryptoware has become the leading malware in terms of threat and impact. It encrypts victims' user generated files, denying them access unless the victim pays a fee to have their files decrypted.
Network intrusions that result in unlawful access to or disclosure of private data or intellectual property are growing in frequency and scale.
Some member states highlighted the particular threat posed by insiders to a company's security.
Criminals use fraudulent transfer orders to defraud private and public sector organisations. Social engineering and malware are heavily relied upon to carry out this type of fraud.
The report indicates that compromised card data is readily available and easy to obtain in the deep web and darknet.
Document fraud has emerged as a key criminal activity linked to the migration crisis. Document fraud, money laundering and the online trade in illicit goods and services are the engines of organised crime.
Europol recommends key priorities to tackle the most threatening forms of serious and organised crime. They are cyber-crime; drug production, trafficking and distribution; migrant smuggling; organised property crime; and trafficking in human beings.
“The SOCTA 2017 delivers a set of recommendations based on an in-depth analysis of the major crime threats facing the EU, and is providing information to Europe's law enforcement community and decision-makers. It shows that Europol's position is at the heart of the European security architecture,” said Julian King, European commissioner for the Security Union.
OCGs make use of various online services to facilitate their burglaries. This includes checking on social media platforms whether individuals are away from targeted residences, scouting targeted neighbourhoods using free online navigation tools.
Data has become a key commodity for criminals. Increasing internet connectivity by citizens, businesses and the public sector, along with the growing number of connected devices and sensors as part of the Internet of Things will create new opportunities for criminals.
“Based on these findings, member states will discuss in the following weeks how to take forward cooperation in the fight against serious and organised crime in the EU,” said Andrew Seychell, Maltese Council Presidency.