Published 20 May 2020

Derbyshire Constabulary’s chief constable, Peter Goodman, has highlighted how many organised gangs and county-line criminals are waking up to the potential of cybercrime, as transporting illicit drugs and committing robberies becomes more difficult during the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown.

Goodman also serves as the national lead for serious and organised crime, as well as cybercrime, on the National Police Chiefs’ Council. He was updating the cybersecurity sector through a briefing for the Security Awareness Special Interest Group when he compared robbing a bank at gunpoint to cybercrime, which can still yield high rewards while incurring a lower level of risk.

While discussing the policing challenges that had arisen during the current crisis, Goodman said:

“We’ve seen that traditional criminality, particularly organised criminality, turning their hand to the digital world in a way that they haven’t before. We always knew that at some point organised crime would start to understand that crime over the internet, cyber-enabled, cyber-dependent crime, is a lot less risky and the rewards are a lot greater than going across the pavement with a shotgun and breaking into a bank. We kind of knew organised crime would turn their hand to that, and indeed some had done so already.”

He added that there was tangible evidence that such gangs were increasingly turning towards cybercrime as a source of income during the pandemic. Law enforcement agencies have long believed that such gangs would eventually make the move into cyberspace for new sources of illegal income, but the current crisis seems to have accelerated this process.

Goodman cited the example of a county-lines criminal who uses vulnerable people to transport and deliver drugs to various parts of the country, pointing out the difficulty of sustaining this with a skeleton transport infrastructure. He said that criminals still wanted money, so they have turned to online crime instead, pointing out that for some it may just be a temporary diversion, while for others, it may be a permanent shift.

He also pointed out that some of these new crimes are just traditional scams using the internet as their medium of choice, while others are more cyberspace-specific crimes. He pointed to scams marketing fake cures and protective equipment for COVID-19, as well as more technology-based phishing campaigns.

So far, there has been at least one arrest for an attempted coronavirus-related cyberattack on the National Health Service, which took place in Manchester.

While criminals coming from traditional crime might lack the technological sophistication of seasoned cybercriminals, the threat they present should never be taken lightly. At Pro-Networks, we have long believed in the importance of having a robust cybersecurity strategy. As part of our managed IT support services, we can help you to deploy the right combination of cybersecurity defences to suit both your risk profile and your budget, usually through an optimal combination of hardware and software technology, training and standards compliance.

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