New Europol’s 2020 cybercrime report updates on the latest trends and the current impact of cybercrime within the EU and beyond.

In its 7th annual Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) report, Europol explained that the pandemic resulted in the majority of society turning to the internet, for a sense of normality: working, learning, shopping and more. However, the pandemic has also shown how threat actors actively take advantage of society at its most vulnerable.

Cross-Cutting Crime

Social engineering and phishing continue to be powerful tools for facilitating various forms of cybercrime. Inexperienced cybercriminals may carry out phishing campaigns more simply through crime as-a-service, and criminals adopt novel tactics to boost the volume and sophistication of their attacks.

Criminals rapidly took advantage of the pandemic to target the most vulnerable members of society; phishing, online scams, and the spread of fake news became ideal strategies for cybercriminals seeking to sell items that claim will prevent or cure disease. 

Malware reigns supreme

Ransomware attacks have become increasingly sophisticated, focusing on specific public and private sector organisations via victim reconnaissance. While the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted an uptick in cybercrime, ransomware attacks on the healthcare business have been occurring long before the crisis.

Furthermore, threat actors have included another layer to their ransomware attacks, by threatening to auction off the compromised data, increasing the pressure on the victims to pay the ransom.

Advanced forms of malware are a top threat in the EU: criminals have transformed some traditional banking Trojans into modular malware to cover more PC digital fingerprints, which are later sold for different needs.

Payment fraud: Sim swapping a new trend

SIM swapping, which allows perpetrators to take over accounts, is one of the new trends in this year’s IOCTA.As a type of account takeover, SIM swapping provides criminals access to sensitive user accounts. Criminals fraudulently swap or port victims’ SIMs to one in the criminals’ possession in order to intercept the one-time password step of the authentication process.


Catherine De Bolle, Europol’s Executive Director commented: “Cybercrime affects citizens, businesses and organisations across the EU. Europol plays a key role in countering cybercrime by working with our many partners in law enforcement and the private sector and by offering innovative solutions and effective, comprehensive support to investigations. I hope this analysis can inform effective responses to these evolving threats and make Europe safer”.