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Ten charged over plot to deliver drugs by drone to UK jails

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deliver drugs by drone

Police in the UK have arrested eight men and two women on suspicion of being members of a gang that used drones to smuggle large quantities of drugs and other contraband into prisons across England.

Officers from West Midlands Police charged the 10 suspects, who were arrested in a series of early morning raids conducted on Wednesday, with three counts of conspiracy to supply drugs, new psychoactive substances and other banned items, including mobile phones and SIM cards, to prisoners.

Investigators believe members of the gang may have used drones to make as many as 90 deliveries to prisons across the country, including HMP Birmingham in Winson Green; HMP Oakwood and Featherstone; Worcestershire’s HMP Hewell; HMP Risley in Warrington; HMP Wymott in Lancashire and HMP Liverpool.

Commenting on the arrests, Detective Inspector Erica Field from the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit’s Prison Intelligence Unit and Prison Investigation team based in Birmingham, said: “These arrests are clearly very significant and come on the back of a detailed and very complex investigation into the smuggling of drugs and contraband to serving prisoners.

“Much of the violence behind bars is linked to drug use and supply so it’s vitally important we do all we can to cut off the supply lines – and anyone convicted of supplying banned substances into prisons can soon expect to be inmates themselves.”

The arrests come after UK Justice Secretary David Gauke last week warned that inmates in UK prisons are able to order drugs to their cells as easily as they might order a pizza on the outside thanks to prison drone deliveries.

In a speech on prison reform at the Royal Society of Arts in London, Gauke told an audience that synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice can be ordered by inmates with “Deliveroo-style responsiveness” on miniature mobile phones and delivered by drone to cell windows.

“It is clear that the reason drugs are so prevalent in our prisons is in large part because gangs are fuelling demand, boosting the supply and catching prisoners in a cycle of debt and further criminality from which they struggle to break free,” Gauke said.

Last December, eight members of a gang who smuggled drugs and other items into prisons across England and Scotland using drones were jailed for a total of 28 years.

Ringleader Craig Hickinbottom was sentenced to seven years and two months behind bars at Birmingham Crown Court after being found guilty of coordinating scores of drone deliveries to jails across Britain.

At the beginning of March it was reported that UK firm Skydroid has won a contract from the British government to design a proof of concept that would protect jails from smuggling attempts facilitated by drones.

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ASEAN nations hit by data breaches, ransomware attacks and cryptojacking last year, Interpol says

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ASEAN nations hit by data breaches

Southeast Asia experienced “significant” levels of cyber crime in 2019, including major data breaches, crippling ransomware attacks and a huge rise in cryptojacking, according to a new report from Interpol.

In its ASEAN Cyberthreat Assessment 2020, the International law enforcement agency revealed that the region saw an increase in botnet detections and the hosting of Command and Control (C2) servers in the first half of last year.

Interpol also said phishing campaigns increased in both quantity and sophistication, using advanced social engineering techniques.

Data obtained by Interpol’s private partners for the report showed that the region suffered 5% of global business email compromise (BEC) attacks, with Singapore and Malaysia recording the highest BEC cases of all ASEAN countries (54% and 20%, respectively).

Over the first half of last year, Southeast Asia saw a 50% rise in banking malware attacks compared to the whole of 2018, with prominent malware families such as the Emotet16 banking Trojan shifting from banking credential theft to the distribution business.

Elsewhere, the increasing popularity of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin resulted in the rise of crypto-ransomware and cryptojacking, the latter of which involves hackers exploiting unsuspecting computer users’ processing power and bandwidth to mine virtual currency after infiltrating their systems using purpose-built malware.

The Interpol ASEAN Cybercrime Operations Desk concluded its report by vowing to enhance cyber crime intelligence for effective responses to cyber crime in the region, strengthen cooperation for joint operations against cyber crime, and develop regional capacity and capabilities to combat cyber crime.

Commenting on the contents of the report, Interpol’s Director of Cyber Crime Craig Jones said: “In today’s highly digitalised world, the sooner countries are aware of a threat, the sooner they can take steps to mitigate the risk and minimise the cyber threats coming from all directions.

“To this end, we encourage law enforcement in all countries to be actively engaged in collective efforts against these threats, particularly through sharing intelligence and the formulation of a joint operation framework to effectively reduce the global impact of cybercrime.”

In January, Interpol teamed up with several Southeast Asian law enforcement agencies to crack down on cryptojacking.

They used intelligence obtained from police and partners in the cyber security industry to identify a global cryptojacking campaign facilitated by hackers in the region through the exploitation of a vulnerability in MikroTik routers.

Interpol’s Operation Goldfish Alpha also sought to raise awareness of what is a relatively unknown crime in the region, and teach local law enforcement agencies how to deal with it effectively.

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Counterfeit rail ticket gang leaders jailed for total of 24 years by UK court

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The ringleaders of a UK-based organised crime network behind a multimillion-pound fake rail ticket conspiracy have been handed jail sentences totalling 24 years at Inner London Crown Court.

Investigators from British Transport Police (BTP), which specialises in investigating crime committed on the UK’s railways and light-rail systems, began a probe that led to the arrest of the gang members after rail inspectors noticed the counterfeit tickets in circulation across London.

The gang sold the tickets, which appeared to be genuine and worked when used at ticket barriers at railway stations, at half the price of their face value.

Detectives estimate the gang cost rail companies approximately £8 million ($10.33 million) during the conspiracy, which is thought to have run from 2016 to 2019, and involved the sale of weekly and monthly rail season tickets.

BTP described the scam as a pyramid scheme, during which one ringleader, Manuel Da Costa Silva, would source large numbers of counterfeit tickets before passing them onto lower level distributers who would either sell them to customers or offload them in bulk to even lower level criminals.

The bogus tickets were manufactured by brothers Stefan and Sorin Covrig along with a third man named Ciprian Buda.

They used blank tickets, card readers, computer programs and printers to produce their illicit product.

During a police raid on their homes, investigators seized almost 60,000 blank tickets, which if printed with could have made the gang as much as £20 million.

Stefan Covrig was jailed for seven years and six months, while his brother Sorin was handed a sentence of four years and six months.

Buda was jailed for four years and six months, while Silva received seven years and six months after also being sentenced for money laundering.

Commenting after the men were jailed, Siwan Hayward, Director of Compliance and Policing at Transport for London, said: “Organised fraud like this is rare and we have robust controls in place to identify and stop illegal activity.

“Our team of 450 revenue inspectors operates across our network day and night and includes a specialist counterfeit ticket team who detected these fake National Rail tickets circulating on our network.

“This scam defrauded the public of millions of pounds that should have been invested in the transport network.

“We have a zero-tolerance approach to any fraud on our network and welcome the news that these criminals have been brought to justice.”

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International Organisation for Migration launches campaign against human trafficking in Sri Lanka

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The UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has teamed up with the Sri Lankan government to launch a new initiative intended to help fight human trafficking on the South Asian island.

In partnership with Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Justice, Human Rights and Legal Reforms, the agency is running a public information campaign intended to encourage victims of human trafficking and forced labour to come forward and report crimes committed against them.

The initiative, which will include advertisements run on TV and radio, is also intended to educate members of the public so as they are better able to spot the signs of human trafficking and forced labour and report concerns of any such crimes to police.

IOM Sri Lanka, which has provided grants to more than 90 human trafficking victims and vulnerable migrants since 2017, said the majority of cases it deals with relate to forced labour in Middle East countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Many Sri Lankan victims of human trafficking travel to such countries to seek work in the hospitality and domestic sectors.

The agency also highlighted cases in which men from Sri Lanka have suffered labour exploitation in Singapore and Malaysia in the construction industry, and one incident in which 12 Sri Lankan fishermen were trafficked to Somaliland.

Funded by the US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, the campaign will also be advertised through street theatre and billboards.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Anthony Renzulli, Chief Political Officer at the US Embassy in Colombo, said: “We must stop trafficking at its source and hold traffickers accountable; we must urge governments to implement their laws by building effective delivery systems of justice and protection; and we must proactively identify and provide needed services to survivors.

“If we are to accomplish all of these things, we must continue to refine our efforts and focus on impact.”

At the end of January, the Colombo Gazette reported that Pakistan had pledged to help Sri Lanka fight human trafficking and the illicit drug trade.

On a visit to Colombo, Pakistani Navy Commander Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi said the two nations should boost existing cooperation on security issues and improve information sharing.

“Pakistan will assist to repair the Sri Lanka Navy’s hovercraft and also to develop a library at the proposed National Defence College,” he said.

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