IT professionals in Australia are becoming an increasingly vital element in the activities of organised crime syndicates, according to a new report by the Federal Government.
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission released its Organised Crime in Australia 2017 report on 24 August, revealing that organised crime is costing Australia $36 billion a year.
The report also revealed just how dependent organised crime groups today are on technology in general, and the IT skills associated with it.
“The majority of serious and organised crime activities are enabled, to some extent, by the use of technology,” the report stated. “Technology is attractive to criminals as it can provide anonymity, obfuscate activities and locations, and increase their global reach by connecting them to potential victims and information around the world.
“Using technology to commit crime is also significantly more efficient and less resource intensive than traditional methods of perpetrating crime,” it said.
The report outlined the main “professional facilitators” either unwittingly exploited by, or willingly recruited by, crime gangs to do their jobs, with the most common professionals being lawyers, accountants, financial agents and real estate agents, among others.
However, the report was clear that IT professionals are now emerging as a key group of professional facilitators engaged by organised crime networks.
“Serious and organised crime groups also engage the services of professional facilitators with relevant information and communication technology (ICT) knowledge and skills to assist in the commission of technology enabled crimes,” the report stated.
While the general trend in the role technology plays in criminal activities comes as little surprise, the report also provided insight into how particular types of technology are being employed for crime and just how much of an impact it has on Australian individuals and businesses.
It highlighted, for example, that in 2016, there were 46,957 reports of cybercrime, with 50 per cent related to scams, 20 per cent to purchases and 7.5 per cent to cyber-bullying.
The two key enabling technologies currently used to facilitate serious and organised crime, the report said, are virtual currencies and encryption. At the same time, identity crime – which is frequently carried out via phishing and other malicious exploits – continues to be one of the most common types of crime committed in Australia.
Further, the report warns that increased availability and ongoing advancement of technology will continue to provide criminals with an increasingly diverse range of resources to conduct criminal activity and impede law enforcement investigations.