CRIME BYTES – Cyber crime more lucrative than the drugs trade: the changing landscape of organised crime

When people think of organised crime, visions of the Godfather or the drug cartels of Breaking Bad often spring to mind. However, the landscape of organised crime is changing. With cyber crime now a far more lucrative business than the drugs trade, offenders are exploiting the anonymity and protection afforded to them by the online world to target more victims than ever before.

Speakers at an event organised this week by Barclays, ‘Protecting Your Business from Cyber Crime’, remarked that one in four businesses in the UK have been affected by fraud, with over a third of these linked to cyber crime. Detective Chief Inspector Steve Thomas of the Regional Cyber Crime Unit explained that despite these shocking statistics, true figures are likely to be a lot higher as we are still in the infancy of understanding cyber attacks.

“You have got organised crime groups, who in the past, maybe operated in the sale of drugs and arms… where law enforcement has something more tangible to be able to investigate, disrupt and unravel… As an organised crime business, it’s more lucrative than selling drugs.”

This shift from physical to virtual crime was also recently highlighted by the Commissioner of the City of London Police, Adrian Leppard, a central figure in the fight against fraud and cyber crime, who stated that up to a quarter of organised criminals in the UK are now thought to be involved in some sort of financial crime. Cyber crime appeals to organised crime because it is a “low-risk, high yield” offence, he explained:

Organised crime is motivated by money. Whichever criminal activity delivers the most money that is where they will go…”

The problem with this kind of offending, he argues, is that it is difficult to tackle in the traditional way, with many offenders operating from abroad, beyond the reach of local police forces.

Even if we had ten times the number of police officers I am not sure that would necessarily address the problem, because internationally we cannot reach the people.”

Mr Leppard went on to argue that the fight against fraud and cyber crime must become a ‘Prevention Mission’ and that public and businesses had a large role to play in protecting themselves. A view reaffirmed by DCI Thomas this week, who stated that with support from law enforcement and other agencies, he believed that around 90 per cent of cyber attacks could be thwarted.

At Perpetuity, our current Security Research Initiative (SRI) project is based on the growing threat posed by online crime. We are looking at ‘Tackling Cyber Crime – the role of of private security’ in order to better understand what private security can do to address cyber crime, including the difficulties and opportunities cyber crime poses.

To read more about our current SRI project and access previous reports that are available, please click here.


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