Europol announces top 8 cybercrime trends of 2016

On Septermber 28, Europol published The 2016 Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA), in which it details biggest cybercrime threats from 2016 and provides recommendations on how to address them. It is not a secret that the number of cyber crimes proliferates daily since such illegal activities prove to be highly profitable. Of course, there are other problems that also fuel up cybercrime trends, such as lack of security across the business and information related to cyber security when educating employees. According to Europol, the volume and material cost of cybercrime have reached terrifying rates already, and some European Union Member States even claim that the number of cyber crime cases may have already surpassed the number of traditional crime cases. Europol has described 8 top cybercrime trends, which are listed below.

Europol announces top 8 cybercrime trends of 2016

1. Crime-as-a-Service.

Europol reports that Crime-as-a-Service model relies on experienced criminals that provide tools and services for those who want to be involved in criminals activities and earn money this way. Malware-related tools are actively sold on criminal forums within the deep web or Darknet. Both amateur and experienced cybercriminals go to such forums to share their knowledge with others, learn, and also buy or sell tools needed to commit cyber crimes. However, since July 2015, when the most popular English speaking criminal forum called Darkode was taken down, no notable replacements have appeared yet.

2. Ransomware

Ransomware remains the undisputed leader of computer viruses, especially cryptoware variants of it. Availability to test suggested decryption tools, official payment websites accessible via Tor network and even possibility to contact support for help – these are only a few features that show how well-prepared cyber criminals are. In the past, ransomware used to target individual computer users, but now it mainly seeks to infect healthcare or even government organizations.

3. The criminal use of data

Valuable private data remains one of the primary targets for frauds. Once they get access to it, criminals can manipulate it however they want. Typically, crooks encrypt data and demand a ransom or use it for extortion.

4. Payment fraud

Although various security measures help to prevent card-present fraud in the EU, the number of well-organized attacks against ATMs continues to grow. According to Europol, organized crime gangs are beginning the new era of manipulating and compromising transactions involving contactless cards.

5. Online child sexual exploitation

Unfortunately, the Internet is the place where criminals and child sex offenders can communicate and share child sexual exploitation material. These filthy abusers can use the world wide web to find new victims. The type of sexual coercion and extortion is either content driven (for sexual purposes), or financially driven (for financial gain).

6. Abuse of the Darknet

The Darknet allows cyber criminals to share illegal content, for example, child sexual exploitation material, information needed to commit cybercrime, or even buy or sell illegal commodities such as drugs or firearms.

7. Social engineering

Social engineering (as an attack vector) has been utilized in numerous illegal activities. According to Europol, key threats are CEO fraud, advanced fee fraud, and phishing.

8. Virtual currencies

The most popular virtual currency known as Bitcoin is known to be the top choice for payments related to cyber crimes. Bitcoin payment system provides strong anonymity, which is required for criminals who buy or sell illegal services or products sold on forums in the Darknet.

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Olivia Morelli
Olivia Morelli - Ransomware analyst

Olivia Morelli is News Editor at She covers topics such as computer protection, latest malware trends, software vulnerabilities, data breaches, and more.

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