Technology is now at the “root” of all serious criminality, says Europe’s police agency.
The returns generated by document fraud, money laundering and online trade in illegal goods helps to pay for other damaging crimes, said Europol.
The wider use of technology by criminal gangs poses the “greatest challenge” to police forces, it said in a study.
It revealed that Europol is currently tracking 5,000 separate international organised crime groups.
The “comprehensive” study of organised crime in Europe found a wide range of crime groups ranging from loose networks of individual criminals up to large trans-national bodies that generate profits which rival those of legitimate multi-national corporations.
Common among all groups was their affection for technology, said the report. The ease with which cybercrime campaigns can be set up and run as well as the proliferation of online crime services had driven this adoption.
Many groups now use cybercrime campaigns, including ransomware, to generate cash that is then used to bankroll people and drug trafficking operations.
“These cross-cutting criminal threats enable and facilitate most, if not all, other types of serious and organised crime,” said the report.
In addition, said Europol, many gangs were turning to technology to help make well-established crimes more lucrative.
For instance, said the report, drones were now being used to transport drugs and many burglars now track social media posts to work out when people are away from their home .
The steady increase in the number of reported burglaries across Europe was a “particular concern” for many nations, it said.