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Online cybercrime and child sexual exploitation on the rise in Europe amid COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 has not only infected humans and Europol's latest report proves it. At the height of the pandemic, cybercrime has increased, as has the spread of fake news and the sexual exploitation of children through the Internet.

Despite sharing general figures that make it possible to better understand this growth, Europol guarantees that the impact of the pandemic on cybercrime has been "the most evident and impressive compared to other criminal activities". The conclusion is based on the data released by the member states and by the partners of the European Police Service.

The report further proves that criminals in this area were able to adapt quickly and take advantage of the population's fears and anxieties, with bets on phishing and ransomware campaigns. The objective is precisely to exploit the vulnerabilities surrounding this crisis and Europol believes that these strategies will tend to increase in number and in scale.

In the case of child sexual exploitation on the Internet, the European Police Service speaks of "an increase in attempts by adults to come into contact with children through social networks in some countries". In the case of Spain, for example, there was an increase of 100 complaints in this area between February and March of this year.

Evolution of the number of complaints from Spanish citizens between 2017 and 2020

Another of the report's main conclusions is related to the fact that criminal organizations seek to exploit this public health crisis to promote geopolitical interests. But this also happens with the states themselves, guarantees the report.