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Cyber crime on the rise in the EU

Technological advancements over the past years have brought about various positive societal changes, transforming the educational and health sectors as we know them today. Technology has become a necessity in our personal lives and in organisational structures, facilitating communication through different networks.

However, this has also provided a way for people to use online platforms illegally, leading to what is now known as cybercrime. Cybercriminals illicitly make use of the Internet’s speed and anonymity to execute criminal acts, ranging from phishing, hacking and other social engineering techniques to more large-scale, organised cyber-crimes.


Each year, Europol publishes the Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA), which is a statistical report analysing the current situation of cybercrime and what are the threats which could leave an impact on citizens, businesses and even national governments. This report is based on all the European Union Member States, creating a thorough picture of the latest cybercrime threat landscape.

The most recent IOCTA, published in November 2021, pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic had its own impact on these cyber threats as it has led to a steep increase in online fraud due to the excessive use of online shopping and contactless payments.

Ransomware groups have also remained a key threat to society, as they have been taking advantage of the teleworking situation and vulnerabilities in people’s virtual private networks (VPN). Private partners have reported a dramatic increase in the number of ransom payments paid (more than 300% increase) between 2019 and 2020, due to the rise of double-extortion methods practised by cybercriminals.


EU law enforcement has also identified the increasing use on the Dark Web, especially with single vendor shops being listed on different Darknet markets. DarkMarket was perhaps the most dominant Dark Web marketplace throughout the year, which consisted of 500,000 global users, engaging in 320,000 illegitimate transactions with different sellers.


It is important for European countries to engage in awareness campaigns in order to prevent organisational and personal data breaches. Some distinct tips to help reduce the risk of cyber-attacks include:

    1. Avoid clicking on strange links. It is important to be aware that phishing emails look identical to the usual emails one may receive, however, it is highly likely that such emails would contain malicious links or infected documents.
    2. Regularly changing passwords. Cybercriminals may be tracking your online credentials from one website to another, so it is crucial that personal login information is updated in order to limit data breaches.
    3. Using two-factor authentication. If a cybercriminal attempts to use your login information, two-factor authentication would lower their chances of a successful login due to added security layers.


Be prepared

Do you want to know more about how to protect yourself from cybercrime? Download our free e-book now at Cybercrime: How to protect yourself and your office data | Grant Thornton Malta