EU Police Warn Extremists 'Could Branch Out into Cyberattacks'

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Extremists could turn to the darknet to plan cyber attacks. Public domain

Violent extremists could increasingly branch out into cyberwarfare thanks to the availability of hacking services on the darknet, EU police have warned.

Europol, the EU's law enforcement agency, wrote in an annual report on cybercrime published Wednesday that: "While the extent to which extremist groups currently use cyber techniques to conduct attacks appears to be limited, the availability of cybercrime tools and services, and illicit commodities such as firearms on the darknet, provide ample opportunities for this situation to change."

The agency calls for greater security collaboration in order to tackle the challenges posed by the hidden corners of the internet: "Given the additional challenges investigations on the Darknet present to law enforcement collaboration and the sharing of intelligence is essential.

"This will help to prevent duplication of effort, facilitate the sharing of tactics and tools, and increase understanding of the threat.

"Law enforcement presence in an area that has no effective national boundaries causes issues. To effectively progress such investigations requires at least EU-level cooperation," the report adds.

The report concludes that all types of police need to be trained in combatting the growing threat of crime on the darknet: "Darknets are an environment where cyber-facilitated crime is becoming firmly established. This is a cross-cutting issue that requires support from specialists in multiple crime types.

"It is not feasible or practical that all such crime is dealt with by cybercrime units."

The report defines "darknets" as anonymous peer to peer networks such as The Onion Router (TOR). It warns that a quarter of respondents to Europol's survey of law enforcement were restricted in tackling crime on the darknet by their countries' laws.