The Fraud Examiner

Europol’s Assessment of Cryptocurrencies and Cyber Crime Threats

Prof. Colin May, CFE      
Adjunct Professor of Forensic Studies and Criminal Justice
Stevenson University, Forensic Studies Program

In September 2018, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (EUROPOL) released their annual cyber fraud report, the 2018 Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA). The comprehensive, 72-page report details key findings from EUROPOL’s assessment of the vast amount of criminal intelligence, investigation and enforcement actions information gathered by police and regulators across Europe that deal with fraud and criminal use of the internet.

Publicly available threat assessments, like the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center Annual Report or the Financial Action Task Force money laundering methodology reports,  are excellent resources for fraud examiners and investigators. They are useful in helping to understand and mitigate risks posed by various actors. They are often persuasive in briefing senior executives, in public talks or during annual employee fraud prevention training.

Cybercrime proceeds and cryptocurrencies
The report covers a lot of territory let’s focus on some of the findings from the section on criminal finances, specifically the use of cryptocurrency. The report notes that the IOCTA has seen a rise in cryptocurrency-related issues year-over-year, but the 2018 report is explicit in the alarm it raises for threat potential.

The report reads, “A consequence of [Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency] becoming more mainstream and a recent spike in value, is that cryptocurrency users and facilitators are now subjected to the same attacks aimed at users of traditional financial instruments — attackers now phish for victim’s login credentials for their online exchanger accounts, information stealing malware also hunts for victim’s electronic wallets and private keys and entities holding stocks of cryptocurrencies, such as exchangers, have become the target for hackers.”

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