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UK facing growing threat from organised crime, National Crime Agency warns

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UK facing growing threat from organised crime

Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned that the UK is facing an increasing threat from serious and organised crime, and that criminal networks are growing thanks to technology and the impact of globalisation.

In its annual threat assessment, the UK’s equivalent to the FBI estimates there are 4,629 crime groups in the UK, with that many serious offences under reported.

The NCA notes that the scale of human trafficking and modern slavery in Britain is increasing, and that there has been an increase in the illegal use of firearms over the course of the last year.

It also claims that money laundering that could be worth hundreds of billions of pounds impacts the UK every year, and that Britain remains a prime destination for dirty foreign money.

Elsewhere, the NCA’s 2018 National Strategic Assessment cautions that airstrips across the UK could be exploited by trafficking gangs looking to sneak illegal immigrants into Britain, and that people smugglers are using refrigerated trucks to transport their human cargo past customs checks.

“People smugglers continue to favour hard sided refrigerated lorries to transport migrants to the UK. They also attempt to smuggle migrants in concealments in vans,” according to the study.

“Opportunist migrants attempt entry in soft-sided vehicles. These preferences are reflective of the capabilities of each group.”

The agency notes that encrypted messaging services such as WhatsApp are making it increasingly difficult for law enforcement authorities to detect and keep track of potentially-dangerous offenders.

“The use of technologies such as the dark web, encryption, virtual private networks (VPN) and virtual currencies will support fast, ‘secure’ and anonymous operating environments, facilitating all levels of criminality,” the NCA says.

“The increasingly ubiquitous ‘by default’ nature of these enabling technologies will continue to lower the barriers to entry for some types of cyber enabled crime.”

Looking forward to 2023, the NCA said technology will continue to transform the future landscape of crime.

“Technology will continue its complex and global spread, with cyber crime very likely becoming more prevalent in countries which lack the capacity and/or capability to mount an effective response,” the agency said in its threat assessment.

“This will increase the number of countries which pose a potential threat to the UK. It is possible that cyber criminal activity will locate within ‘safe havens’ in more hard-to-reach firewalled and ‘siloed’ jurisdictions.”

The report also warned that UK businesses could be hit as criminals attempt to take advantage of the opportunities that might be presented to them by Brexit.

These might include the design and implementation of a new UK customs system, or the increased challenges for EU and UK law enforcement in locating and extraditing international fugitives if the UK loses enforcement or intelligence sharing tools.

 

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Researchers develop new ‘fingerprint’ tracking method for 3D-printed guns

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‘fingerprint’ tracking method

In a discovery that could help law enforcement agencies across the globe track 3D-printed guns and counterfeit goods, a team of scientists at the University at Buffalo has found that no two 3D printers are the same, and that all have their own “fingerprints”.

The researchers claim to have developed what they describe as the world’s first accurate method for tracing a 3D-printed object to the device on which it was made.

Commenting on the discovery, study lead author Wenyao Xu said:”3D printing has many wonderful uses, but it’s also a counterfeiter’s dream. Even more concerning, it has the potential to make firearms more readily available to people who are not allowed to possess them.

“3D printers are built to be the same. But there are slight variations in their hardware created during the manufacturing process that lead to unique, inevitable and unchangeable patterns in every object they print.”

Xu and his team found that every layer of a 3D-printed object contains unique tiny wrinkles that can be used to identify various characteristics of the machine that was used to create it, including printer model type, filament, nozzle size and other factors.

To test their new tracking method, which they dubbed the PrinTracker project, the scientists printed five door keys from 14 common 3D printers.

They then scanned each of the door keys to create a digital image that was enhanced and filtered, allowing for the identification of the unique in-fill patterns of each object.

The researchers were then able to match each key to the printer on which it was produced with 99.8% accuracy.

Xu likened the tracking method to the ability to identify the source of paper documents, a practice that has been used by law enforcement agencies, printer companies and other organisations for decades.

Speaking with Vice News, David Chipman, Senior Policy Adviser at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said: “For this to be useful to law enforcement who would be tracing guns, you’d have to have a record of the unique signature of every 3D printer being sold. We can only match it if we already have a record of it.”

While 3D-printed guns are currently widely considered as being flimsy and unreliable, experts fear that as the technology advances, they could be routinely used by criminals and terrorists on account of the fact they were considered to be nearly impossible to trace.

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British government calls on business to tackle forced labour in supply chains on Anti-Slavery Day

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Anti-Slavery Day

Landmarks across the UK were bathed in red light on Thursday evening to mark Anti-Slavery Day in Britain.

Government buildings including 10 Downing Street and the Home Office, along with business landmarks such as London’s BT Tower and Manchester’s Co-Op HQ were illuminated to mark the event, which was intended to raise awareness of the crime and encourage support for the UK’s Modern Slavery Victim Support Bill, which is currently making its way through parliament.

The bill is intended to improve the support available to victims of modern slavery,

In an announcement released to coincide with Anti-Slavery Day, the UK Home Office said it is writing directly to the CEOs of 17,000 businesses across the country, demanding that they accurately report instances of modern slavery discovered in their supply chains, or risk being named and shamed as being in breach of the law.

Under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, large British companies are required to report on the prevalence of modern slavery in their global supply chains.

“Some businesses are already leading the way in taking action by being open and transparent about what they are doing to identify, tackle and prevent forced labour in their supply chains, but too many are still failing to meet their basic legal obligations,” Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins said.

“That’s why the Home Office is sending letters to businesses today with a clear message that continued non-compliance will not be tolerated.”

In a report released days before Anti-Slavery Day, the Salvation Army charity revealed that the number of British people referred to its specialist support for adult victims of modern slavery had nearly doubled over the course of a year.

The study found that 86 British victims of modern slavery were supported by the Salvation Army between July 2017 and June 2018, up from 44 the previous year.

The report also revealed that slavemasters are routinely using drugs and alcohol as means by which to control British victims of modern slavery across the UK.

Elsewhere, the National Crime Agency (NCA), the UK’s equivalent to the FBI, on Thursday announced it has teamed up with NGO Stop The Traffik to raise awareness of the difference between sex work and sexual exploitation, and to encourage better reporting of trafficking concerns.

The agency has also told big technology firms to better police the online sex trade.

NCA Deputy Director Tom Dowdall said: “We know from sex workers who are not being exploited that adult services websites (ASWs) provide safety benefits as they are able to vet customers and avoid those with a history of abuse or violence.

“However, we recognise that ASWs also provide offenders with the ability to easily advertise multiple victims, increase the amount of sexual services victims are forced to provide, and maximise criminal profits.”

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Canada to pardon minor cannabis possession convictions as country legalises the drug

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pardon minor cannabis possession convictions

Canadians convicted of possessing 30 grams or less of cannabis are to be pardoned, a source from Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberal Party has said.

Speaking as Canada became only the second country in the world after Uruguay to legalise the recreational use of cannabis, the source said Ottawa will allow anybody with a criminal record that includes any such charge to apply to have it removed from their files.

Revealing that the exact process people will need to follow to apply for a pardon will be announced in the near future, the official told Canada’s Star newspaper: “For people to whom this applies in their past, we’re going to give them certainty that there will be recourse for them… in terms of exactly how it gets rolled out, the steps that we take, how much time it will take them, we’ll lay that out in the coming days and weeks.”

The announcement was made after members of the New Democratic Party lobbied the Canadian government to pardon people who had been caught in possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use, noting how such convictions can prevent individuals from marginalised communities from accessing housing and services.

The amnesty was announced after Canada officially legalised cannabis on Wednesday after the country’s parliament voted to do so back in June.

Long queues formed outside new cannabis shops across the country on Tuesday evening ahead of the first legally-sold marijuana being purchased from a store on the eastern island of Newfoundland at midnight.

Tom Clarke, 43, who owns the shop in Newfoundland, told reporters: “I am living my dream. Teenage Tom Clarke is loving what I am doing with my life right now.

“This is awesome. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. I am so happy to be living in Canada right now instead of south of the border,” added Clarke, who told reporters he had been dealing cannabis illegally in Canada for 30 years.

“It’s been a long time coming. We’ve only been discussing this for 50 years. It’s better late than never.”

Despite the introduction of the new law, it will remain forbidden for Canadians to be in possession of more than 30 grams of cannabis while in public, grow more than four marijuana plants per household or buy the drug from unlicensed dealers.

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