Fighting Cybercrime – a major challenge for global society

26 January 2012

The Europol Director Rob Wainwright focused on the threat of cybercrime to global society during his intervention today at the World Economic Forum Davos summit.

“A framework is needed that gives law enforcement agencies the means to investigate, judiciary the means to prosecute, and citizens and companies the means to protect themselves against cybercriminals and at the same time safeguard their civil rights,” said Rob Wainwright.

The Internet has revolutionised the way we live, establishing a worldwide borderless cyber society. The “information superhighway” predicted thirty years ago is now a reality, with the world increasingly dependent on high-tech communications and banking systems. This has provided new opportunities for criminals, and created new illicit markets.

Personal data is the new commodity driving much of today's cybercrime. In the digital age we are increasingly identifiable by numbers (bank accounts, passwords, social security, etc.). These numbers have become the stock in trade for fraudsters across the world. There is a certain irony in the fact that personal data is the main commodity of online crime, while the right to anonymity is effectively abused by cybercriminals.

Europol, the European law Enforcement Agency, has already identified a sophisticated “digital underground economy” in which this data is traded. Cybercriminal entrepreneurship, based on malicious software and botnets, is seen as one of the main threats in the cybercriminal landscape.

At the same time, untold emotional damage is suffered by the victims of Internet scams and identity theft, many of whom are vulnerable as a result of a lack of experience online.

Internet technology has also brought child abuse material to a much larger audience, and made it easier than ever before to distribute. The abusers use hidden channels where private access is granted to those ‘insiders’ who also provide abusive images to be shared. Cyber-sex tourism is also on the rise, where the abuse of a child takes place in front of a webcam, sometimes on other continents, following receipt of special requests and payment.

“Legislation should be harmonised to make cross-border investigation easier, and companies and members of the public should know where and how to report crime online. Furthermore we have to develop a collective enforcement approach with industry,” says Rob Wainwright.

Video Interview: Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol, talks about the potential threats of hyperconnectivity and the need for increased resilience.