Written by Mikhail Falaleev

Translated by Elizaveta Ovchinnikova

22 April 2021. Rossiyskaya Gazeta – Federal Issue No. 88(8439)


American intelligence predicts an increase in transnational crime


Surprisingly, the international police community has become aware of the alleged increase in the level of transnational crime from the report of the US security services. The police and intelligence have seemingly different areas of interest. Some are fighting crime, others are hunting for state secrets.

However, common ground still was found. As it turned out, crime activity is now directly related to interstate relations.

President of the International Police Association Russian Section (IPA RS), Lieutenant General, Doctor of Law, Professor, Honoured Lawyer of the Russian Federation Yury Zhdanov told Rossiyskaya Gazeta what criminal threats the US intelligence officers predicted for themselves, Russia and the world.

RG: Yury, why did you get information about a possible surge in crime from American intelligence documents? What are these documents?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: We have studied several documents. First one was the intelligence officers’ report on the forecast for the next twenty years. It is called Global Trends 2040. Then – the unclassified annual report of worldwide threats to the national security of the United States called 2021 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community. This report was submitted to the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. They discussed the report on 14 and 15 April.

According to American intelligence officers, so-called pure cybercrime as a phenomenon is simply absent today

In this report, the national security officers, as they believe, have provided the ‘nuanced, independent and unvarnished intelligence that policymakers, warfighters and domestic law enforcement personnel need to protect American lives and America’s interests anywhere in the world.’

RG: It sounds impressive. But, as I understood, this information was important not only for Americans.

Mr Yury Zhdanov: Yes, this is true. We the police have drawn attention to the problems of transnational organised crime. It turned out that the pandemic has created some problems for drug traffickers. Mainly due to restrictions on movement.

However, the drug lords managed to overcome this, and the number of deaths from overdoses increased. Mexican traffickers in cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine dominate. The threat to Russia is exactly the same as to the United States – this year the production of high-quality fentanyl using chemical precursors from Asia will probably be very successful. Fentanyl is the cause of almost half of all overdose deaths.

The drug mafia includes necessarily gang shooting, robbery and mugging. And what is important for the economy is financial schemes for laundering income, including with the help of cyber tools. Then it is not difficult to make a logical link to terrorism funding.

By the way, the report’s authors expect that new flood of refugees from South and Central America will now be faced by the United States, from North Africa and the Middle East by Europe. And we should await refugees from South East and Central Asia. This is facilitated by the high crime rate and weak labour markets in these countries. However, there is a small hope for quarantine.

RG: But the quarantine does not deter cybercriminals in any way.

Mr Yury Zhdanov: In Russia, for sure. We have more than a third of the thefts of all personal data in the world – from banks, financial and insurance companies. Last year, 202 such leaks were recorded in the world, which led to the compromise of 486 million personal data and payment information. In Russia, the number of leaks in the financial sector increased from 52 to 71 cases, which led to leaks of 13.4 million user data records.

New Artificial Intelligence applications can become potential targets for manipulating any data to distort its results

At the same time, more than half of such theft in the world is accounted for by the so-called external attackers who are not employees of banks and companies. But in Russia, mostly their own but unprivileged employees steal information. They account for 82% of thefts.

RG: Do Americans have similar problems?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: Tellingly, American intelligence does not talk about cybercriminals per se at all. Well, they say, a hacker just wanted to steal money. Or, at worst, sell someone else’s data, blackmail a corporation with the threat of a programme failure or a communications disruption. And again, make money on it. It seems that any cyberattacks, according to their James Bonds, are the work of some enemy state secret services. Well, or these criminals cooperate with state structures.

RG: That is, according to American intelligence officers, so-called pure cybercrime as a phenomenon is simply absent?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: It turns out this way. For some reason, their analysts believe that many experienced foreign cybercriminals targeting the United States maintain mutually beneficial relations with other states that offer them a safe haven or benefit from their activities. For example, according to American intelligence, I quote: ‘North Korea has conducted cyber theft against financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges worldwide, potentially stealing hundreds of millions of dollars, probably to fund government priorities, such as its nuclear and missile programmes.’

American analysts also argue that not only governments but also many companies will have powerful tools to improve individualised marketing or promote a certain agenda. For example, such as video manipulation or other deepfakes. And new Artificial Intelligence applications can become potential targets for manipulating any data to distort its results. The widest field for criminal activity opens up.