A large proportion of young internet users are engaging in some form of cyber-related crimes, including money muling, digital piracy and posting hate speech, according to a major new EU-funded study.
The University of East London (UEL) research was financed by the bloc’s Horizon fund and undertaken in collaboration with Europol’s cybercrime center. It polled 8000 16 to 19-year-olds across the region about 20 types of online behavior.
Around half engaged in behavior considered to be criminal in most jurisdictions, according to The Guardian, which saw a copy of the report.
However, Spain (75%) was the country with the highest proportion of “cyber-deviancy” – a blend of criminal and risky behavior – with the UK coming bottom of nine countries at 58%.
A third (34%) said they participated in digital piracy, over a quarter (27%) admitted having trolled online and a fifth (22%) said they’d incited violence. Some 18% said they had visited illegal gaming marketplaces and 12% had been money mules – a serious offense.
“The research indicates that a large proportion of young people in the EU are engaging in some form of cybercrime, to such an extent that the conduct of low-level crimes online and online risk-taking has become almost normalized,” research co-author Julia Davidson told the paper.
As if to confirm the seriousness of the findings, Europol yesterday revealed a global police operation that resulted in the arrest of nearly 2500 suspected money mules and the interception of €17.5m ($18.4m) in criminal proceeds.
The eighth edition of the European Money Mule Action (EMMA8) this year expanded beyond the bloc, to countries including Colombia, Singapore and Australia.
It was undertaken with close collaboration with 1800 financial institutions, money transfer services, cryptocurrency exchanges, fintech firms and tech vendors, Europol said.
There could be more arrests to come: Europol also claimed that a total of 8755 money mules were identified alongside 222 money mule recruiters.