Home / Blog / The Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (iOCTA) by EC3

The Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (iOCTA) by EC3

Posted on 12/16/2014, by María José Santos (INCIBE)

On the 29th of September of 2014, the European Cybercrime Centre (E3C) at Europol published a report known as "The Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (iOCTA)", which provides recommendations on how to act to dissuade crimes committed over electronic communication networks and how to fight against cybernetic threats.

The report studies the distinguishing aspects of cybercrime with regards to crimes committed outside the cyberspace.


The report highlights the existence of a new business model revolving around digital crime, Crime-as-a-Service (CaaS), which enables criminals to pay for the necessary instruments to commit the crime in the market, such as botnet rentals, denial-of-service attacks, malware development or data and password thefts.

Perhaps one of the greatest difficulties we come up against in our fight against cybercrime is the anonymization techniques used by criminals on internet, known as darknets, which enable an online communication without being traced. Whilst these techniques allow citizens to protect their privacy they also provided a space for impunity. In fact, these opaque networks, on a massive scale protect illegal online trafficking of drugs, weapons, stolen goods, false identities and child sexual exploitation.

Besides these anonymization techniques we must add new payment mechanisms such as virtual currencies, which are beyond the control of the monetary authorities of different states and are therefore used in an illegal way by criminals to carry out criminal transactions and launder money.

The main cybernetic risks identified in the report are the following:


  • Malware is becoming more sophisticated, intelligent, versatile, available, and is affecting a wider range of targets and devices.
  • Malware is also used to create and control botnets.
  • Use of peer-to-peer networks.
  • Anonymization tools.
  • Payment methods: Virtual currencies.
  • Big Data development.
  • Cloud computing.
  • Artificial intelligence.
  • A transition to IPv6 that will encourage new attacks.
  • Use of emerging technologies.
  • Encryption methods.
  • Rise in the scale of Internet access


  • Online fraud has surpassed the damage caused by credit card fraud. This provokes huge losses, not only for the entities issuing payment cards, but also for airline companies, hotels and online retailers.
  • Online child sexual exploitation is on the rise with offences ranging from sexual extortion to the personal use of material containing child abuse. In this field, new challenges have appeared with on-demand live broadcasting. In the EU the ASASEC project intends on creating new tools to help police investigations.
  • Consequences of anonymization: hidden services and markets dedicated to traditional kinds of crimes such as drug trafficking, stolen goods trades, delicate credit card details, false documents, false identity documents and human trafficking.


  • Services and products in the market to commit crimes.
  • Growing economic dependence on Internet.

In the face of this situation, the report identifies two areas where member states must work urgently to fight against cybercrime:

  1. Cooperation between states, industrial and academic sectors to enable an exchange of information, knowledge, resources and processes.
  2. The implementation of legislative changes, given that current judicial frameworks don’t have an adequate answer for such complex challenges as the ones we face. This is down in great part to a lack of legislative harmony in Europe and existing legal loopholes. Legislative initiatives should deal with:

Cybercrime investigation

  • How to ensure and analyse electronic tests in non-European countries where attacks originate and efficient legal tools may be non-existent or technical deficiencies may exist.
  • An effective way of exchanging information between the academic network and public and private sectors.
  • A need for coordination from the EU in the investigation of cybercrimes with the aim of guaranteeing a legislative harmony.
  • A balanced and synchronized approach towards the exchange of information and presentation of investigative reports.
  • The creation of legal instruments for criminal investigations and access to information.
  • The creation of police tools for flexible responses.
  • The creation of processes, protocols and relationships of trust.
  • The generation and implementation of digital forensics standards and procedures, including tools and data formats, to facilitate cross-border investigations and the exchange of electronic proof.
  • The persecution of infrastructures that support or enable cybercrime and malware developers.
  • The creation of a common intelligence network with the objective of avoiding overlappings and duplicated efforts.

Generating confidence and knowledge

  • Increasing the public’s confidence in Internet security by dissuading criminals.
  • Raising the public’s awareness of cybernetic threats.
  • Creating communication programmes and forming online privacy.
  • Establishing a code of conduct in the cyberspace.

The industry

  • The importance of security in the design of software.
  • An investment in the creation of talent and capacities, abilities, experience, knowledge and tools to carry out investigations regarding cybernetic crimes, Big Data digital analysis and forensic analysis.
  • Regulation of virtual currencies.
  • Generating supply and demand of cybersecurity in the market.
  • The transition from IPv4 to IPv6 must be prepared.

Conflict of rights

  • Balance between privacy and safety online.
  • Regulate the potential abuse of new generic domains that are of a superior level to ICANN.

The report therefore clarifies important issues and hands out very relevant information to be able to adopt strategic and tactical decisions. Now we must all unite our strengths and increase the COOPERATION between public, private, national and international organisms to work in a more efficient and effective way down one path; CYBERSECURITY.