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National Crime Agency calls for additional funding to tackle 21st century crime

Organised criminal gangs represent the biggest cyber threat to the UK, and law enforcement has identified rogue servers hosted in the UK

A £2.7bn investment in law enforcement is needed to combat serious organised crime over the next three years, a strategic assessment by the National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned.

Commenting on the release of the NCA’s National strategic assessment of serious organised crime 2019 report, NCA director general Lynne Owen said: “Serious organised crime affects more UK citizens, more frequently than any other national security threat. And it costs the UK at least £37bn a year – equivalent to nearly £2,000 per family.”

The NCA report warned that the threat from cyber crime to the UK is continuing to evolve in complexity. It found that ransomware remains a significant part of the threat landscape, while spam and phishing emails remain the primary malware infection methods.

The report highlighted that UK-based virtual infrastructure, including command and control panels and communication servers, have increasingly been identified in law enforcement investigations. However, the NCA said it was unclear whether this indicates improved law enforcement ability to detect criminal assets, or growing criminal use of UK hosting services.

The assessment warned that financial trojans created by Russian language organised criminal gangs represent the biggest cyber crime threat to the UK. These trojans are a form of malicious software targeting online banking users.

“Elite cyber organised crime groups increasingly use ‘modular malware’, which offers a multitude of opportunities beyond the immediate theft of financial data,” the report said. “These include the use of ransomware – a form of malware that restricts access to a device or network until a ransom is paid.”

The NCA also found that the financial data most coveted by cyber criminals was changing. “Improved global credit card security is highly likely to have encouraged criminals to target CVV [card verification value] data of the type ‘scraped’ from payment pages during high-profile breaches in 2018,” it said. “This is done in light of the fact that CVV data can be used in subsequent fraudulent activity.”

The NCA said the £2.7bn in additional funding would enable the agency to meet growing demand and to build capabilities in areas such as digital forensics, covert surveillance, financial investigations and other critical areas law enforcement needs to combat serious organised crime in the 21st century.

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