press release
Published: 15 November 2018

How online technologies are transforming Transnational Organised Crime

By Hannah Harrison

The University of Surrey will take part in major new research which will investigate the impact that online technologies are having on Transnational Organised Crime (TOC).

Transnational cybercrime is depicted through a skull on a computer screen
Credit: Getty

Surrey academic Dr Giulia Berlusconi will be part of a major new research project which will assess how new technologies are influencing TOC. The project, led by Cardiff University, secured an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) grant to investigate the ways in which criminals are making use of cyber and allied technologies.

This study will explore whether and how dark web markets are changing transnational trafficking flows by analysing online dark web market data and traditional offline trafficking flows for various drug types. Social network analysis will be used to look at which countries are involved in drug exchange and the main trafficking routes and methods used there.

The team will be collecting new data, as well as harvesting interviews and administrative records, and the study will produce the clearest picture yet of how online technologies are reshaping TOC. The project is set to run for two years and the team will begin their research in January 2019.

Dr Berlusconi, Lecturer and Programme Director for BSc Criminology and Sociology, said: “Criminals, including drug traffickers, are increasingly making use of new technologies in their illicit activities. Our project will explore the complex and ever-evolving socio-technical environments within which they operate and help those fighting crime develop strategies to combat the criminals.”

Dr Berlusconi will be joining project leads Professor Mike Levi, Dr Luca Giommoni, Professor Matthew Williams and Professor Pete Burnap from Cardiff University. Other contributors include Dr Alberto Aziani at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and Dr David Décary-Hétu at the University of Montreal. The team will also work closely with fraud prevention organisation CIFAS, professional services firm Deloitte, South Wales Police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Professor Levi, who is also an advisor to Europol’s Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment, said: “As societies across the world are becoming increasingly interconnected and digital, organised crime is adapting to this new landscape and integrating new technologies.”

This study is one of five new projects which will aim to deepen and broaden understanding around complex issues related to TOC and its links with other legal and illegal activities. The collective projects will receive £1.7million in ESRC funding and focus on topics like drug trafficking, modern slavery and the propagation of malware and money laundering. These crimes generate substantial online data resulting from the use of communications, online advertising sites, social media technologies and cryptocurrencies all used by traffickers, software coders and financial transactions.

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