Organised crime in the digital age

organised crime digital age

Digital crime is evolving, fast. As the real and online worlds converge, both the frequency and the variety of offences are increasing. Serious offences can now be committed with minimal physical resources. The spectrum of activity and players is broad, bewildering, and constantly changing: from hack attacks on banks, through online gambling rings and black markets, to old-fashioned, real-world violence for control of hi-tech digital tools.

What has not been clear up to now is the extent to which these new types of crime are organised. Are there new types of online organisation, or are traditional crime groups entering the online world?

Without a clearer understanding of the different types of perpetrators behind this evolving threat, we cannot develop effective strategies to tackle them. Worryingly, key aspects of organised digital crime remain under researched, and a lack of data and an absence of robust analysis are hampering our ability to develop effective policy and law enforcement responses.

An urgent first step towards a proper understanding of this evolving threat is to create an effective taxonomy (i.e. to identify, name and classify the different parts) of the kinds of groups now using digital tools for criminal ends.

BAE Systems Detica commissioned a report by the independent John Grieve Centre for Policing and Security at London Metropolitan University to look in detail, for the first time, at:

  • the structure of organised digital crime groups
  • how they are using information and communications technology to perpetrate their crimes
  • how these new threats can be tackled.

The report challenges some long-held assumptions and dispels some of the received wisdom about the way organised crime is conducted in a digital world. It finds many standard perceptions of digital organisation need to be revised, not least that:

  • all organised digital crime groups (ODCs) are ‘networked’ organisations,
  • they are primarily ‘trans-jurisdictional’ associations,
  • they mainly involve young, technically-literate individuals, and other kinds of crime groups are less significant drivers of digital offending.

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