“Wide-ranging fight against cybercrime due to global scale more important than ever”

the editorial team

12 June 2024

Cybercrime has grown into a vast industry, with extraordinary suffering as a consequence. Last year, 2.3 million Dutch people were affected by some form of online crime. People and businesses suffer enormous financial damage, but above all, it erodes trust: in each other and the digital infrastructure, according to the Cybercrimebeeld Nederland 2024 by the Dutch Public Prosecution Service (OM) and the police.

This first edition of the biennial assessment focuses on complex online crime-targeting ICT systems. The report is unique because it provides insight into the cybercrime landscape from an investigation perspective. For instance, the OM and police see several important developments including the rise of data theft and trafficking, the worrying share of young cybercrime suspects, and the mixing with traditional crime. Furthermore, the impact of cybercrime on victims is underestimated.

Prosecutors and police see that the path to cybercrime has become easier. Cybercriminals used to have to be technically savvy, but now they easily buy services, products, and manuals online. “Through Telegram, forums, and the dark web, one can buy ready-made software and sites to scam people including contact details and call scripts. For a few hundred euros you get in and can make a lot of money with just a few victims a week,” said Stan Duijf, Head of Operations at the National Investigation and Interventions Unit and portfolio holder of cybercrime in the police force. “Furthermore, we see cybercriminals copying stolen data, after which they immediately proceed to extortion instead of encrypting it first. That data is then enriched with other datasets, for example, and resold.”

A worrying development is also that half of cybercrime suspects facing trial are 25 years old or younger. A criminal career can start with playing online games. In these, youngsters seek out limits such as taking out your opponent with a DDoS attack. On hacking forums, they read along and learn about other tricks. This is how they playfully roll into the world of cybercrime.

In addition, police and prosecutors note that cybercrime is not limited to the World Wide Web. It is increasingly mixing with traditional crime. Cyber prosecutors see in their investigations that suspects do not exclusively engage in cybercrime offenses. For instance, weapons, ammunition, and explosives are regularly found on – sometimes even underage – suspects. Conversely, the police also end up with suspects of serious cybercrimes via violent crimes or illegal possession of weapons.

The impact of cybercrime on victims is also underestimated. It leaves deep marks. Research shows that private victims of cybercrime suffer more emotional than financial damage. In addition, they often face victim blaming, making them double victims.

Cybercrime has many manifestations and is constantly evolving. A standard approach is therefore not possible. Combating it requires an integrated and systemic approach. Prosecutors and police are an important part and capstone of that comprehensive approach, with public and private partners also playing a crucial role in combating cybercrime.

“I can imagine that for many people cybercrime is an abstract matter. The Cybercrimebeeld Nederland precisely tells the story behind this crippling form of crime. It makes the stories behind the numbers concrete,” says Rutger Jeuken, chief public prosecutor of the Central Netherlands district office and portfolio holder for cybercrime.