The internet has revolutionised all our lives.
From online shopping to finding information and socialising, the rise of digital technology has made it more convenient for us to keep in touch, organise ourselves and manage day-to-day tasks.
Technology has also had a significant impact on organised crime, helping to facilitate criminal activity on a number of different levels.
According to a 2013 report from the Australian Crime Commission (ACC), organised crime costs the Australian economy $15 billion per year.
The report states that organised crime is also on the rise, and a significant reason for this is due to the use of technology by criminals.
Organised crime has become so globally pervasive that the Australian government has recognised it as a key threat to national security, and police are turning to more high-tech ways of catching organised criminals, and disrupting their activities.
Here are some of the ways that the face of organised crime is changing due to the impact of technology:
- Illicit drugs, like just about everything else, can now be ordered and paid for online and delivered directly to the recipient. This makes it easier for the drugs trade to operate, and reduces the need for traditional drug dealers. Having transactions completed online also makes it more difficult for police to catch people dealing and buying illegal drugs.
- Fraud is becoming more widespread, both through organised criminal gangs and tech savvy individuals. Cyber theft and identity fraud are some of the types of fraud that occur online, along with scams that set out to deliberately deceive people and persuade them to provide credit card details or transfer sums of money. The widespread use of the internet makes it easier for criminals to target potential victims all over the world.
- Online technology makes it easier for criminals to steal bank details and personal information. Other ways of stealing from people using technology include credit card skimming on ATMs and point of sale devices at the checkout.
- Money laundering can be undertaken online and money can be sent around the world to hide the proceeds of criminal activities, or put through online businesses to legitimise the earnings. For example, criminals can use online gambling sites to launder money. The increase in popularity of virtual systems of currencies such as Bitcoin has made it more difficult for police to track and prevent money laundering. These currencies do not fall within the scope of current anti-money laundering legislation, and are easy for criminals to buy and sell from anywhere in the world.
The increase in organised crime has been made easier by technology on a number of different levels, and this is having an impact on the Australian economy as a whole, as well as on the lives of victims of cyber fraud and identity theft.
Unlike most law enforcement agencies, organised crime groups have no borders, which means that criminals can operate in a number of different countries, while the police who are trying to catch them can’t generally operate across jurisdictions but must cooperate with their global counterparts.
The limitations of working with other law enforcement agencies across different jurisdictions can make it extremely difficult for police to work effectively in combatting international crime organisations.
The ACC considers the risk to Australia from cyber-crime and other technologically facilitated crime to be considerable, and likely to increase in the future.