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Falling cocaine prices trigger surge in hard drug consumption among young Britons, survey finds

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hard drug consumption among young Britons

More young Britons are using hard drugs than at any point over the past 10 years, thanks in part to a dramatic fall in the price of cocaine, according to a survey conducted by the UK government.

Figures from the Crime Survey of England and Wales released by the British Home Office yesterday revealed that 8.4% of 16 to 24-year-olds used drugs such as heroin, cocaine and ecstasy at some point over the past 12 months, an increase from 7% in 2016/17.

Cocaine maintained its position as the most popular stimulant drug across the UK last year, after it was used by estimated 875,000 people, a 15% year-on-year rise and the highest level of usage recorded for a decade.

Some 6% of respondents said they had consumed powder cocaine over the past 12 months, up from 4.8% the previous year, and the highest level since 2008/2009.

The price of cocaine has plummeted across the UK in recent years, thanks in part to bumper coca production in South America, and domestic dealers facing increased competition thanks to illicit dark web marketplaces.

While the survey revealed soaring levels of hard drug use among young people, it showed the number of 16 to 24-year-olds who use cannabis remained steady in Britain at about one million over the last year, a third lower than during the 1990s.

In total, the survey found that just under a fifth (19.8%) of young people aged 16 to 24 had taken an illegal drug over the past 12 months, more than double the number across all age groups, equating to around 1.2 million people.

Among respondents aged from 16 to 59, 7.2% said they had used cannabis over the past year, 2.6% admitted to taking cocaine, while 1.7% confessed to having consumed ecstasy.

Just 0.4% of those polled said they had taken new psychoactive substances over the past 12 months.

Responding the survey’s findings, Steve Moffatt, Policy Manager at addiction charity Addaction, said: “Drug markets for [young people] are changing, especially online, and drugs are fairly affordable. We need more evidence though.

“The best thing we can do for this group is to meet them where they are and give them solid, non-judgemental advice about how to lessen the risk. It’s also really important that young people where to go for help if they’re worried about drugs.”

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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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Spanish police discover subterranean counterfeit cigarette factory near Costa del Sol

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subterranean counterfeit cigarette factory

Police in Spain have raided an underground illicit cigarette factory run by a British organised crime network.

In an operation supported by Europol and law enforcement agencies from countries including Lithuania, Poland and Britain, investigators found the subterranean bunker close to the Costa del Sol, rescuing six Eastern European modern slaves who had been forced by the gang to work and sleep at the facility.

The factory, which had been built nearly four metres underground, is said to have been capable of producing illicit cigarettes at the rate of 3,500 every hour.

Police said the workers they found at the factory had effectively been “left to die” after suspects arrested above the ground turned off the system that provided them with clean air in order to hide the bunker from law enforcement agents attending the site.

In total, 20 suspected members of the gang thought to be responsible for the factory were arrested in the operation, including a Briton who is said to have been on the run from authorities in the UK after failing to return to prison while on temporary release while serving a sentence linked to drug and forgery offences.

Thirteen separate locations were raided by police in the operation.

These raids resulted in the seizure of more than one million counterfeit cigarettes, 20kgs of herbal cannabis, 144kgs of marijuana, three weapons, eight GPS tracking devices, and a jamming device that the network likely used to help its members avoid the attention of police.

Investigators said the counterfeit cigarettes the gang made in its underground bunker were produced in unsanitary conditions and consisted of low-quality ingredients and components.

Detectives were forced to use a forklift truck to move a shipping container that was concealing the entrance of the underground facility.

In a statement, Spain’s Guardia Civil said most of the suspects arrested were British citizens, including the alleged 30-year-old ringleader of the conspiracy, who was identified only by the initials DD.

Another of the detainees, identified only as AR, was said to have been a Lithuanian national listed as having fled from justice in his home country while wanted in relation to smuggling offences.

In a statement relating to its involvement in the operation, Europol said: “Europol facilitated the information exchange between the participating countries, provided coordination support and analysed operational information against Europol’s databases to give leads to investigators.

“Europol also provided on-the-spot operational support by deploying two analysts to Malaga, Spain, to provide real-time analytical support.”

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US customs workers find counterfeit LED screens worth more than $1.5 million in rail freight

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counterfeit LED screens worth more than $1.5 million

Customs officers working in the US state of Minnesota have prevented a shipment of 1,088 counterfeit LED screens from entering the country.

The fake screens were discovered during an inspection of rail containers at the International Falls port of entry, where goods pass into the US from Canada.

It is estimated that the shipment would have had a recommended retail value of $1,529,600 if the products had been genuine.

The screens, which were found by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers on February 12 in two 40-foot containers and were destined for delivery in Minnesota, were said to have originated from China.

Securing Industry reported that the bogus items infringed intellectual property rights held by Illinois-based Watchfire, which is one of the largest makers of indoor and outdoor digital signs in the US.

A CBP spokeswoman told American Shipper that the containers on which the counterfeit LED screens had been travelling arrived at Canada’s Port of Vancouver before being transported by rail to the International Falls port of entry.

Commenting on the discovery, Anthony Jackson, International Falls Port Director, said: “CBP is focused on identifying and intercepting counterfeit merchandise and products. The enforcement of trade laws at US ports of entry remains a high priority for us.

“Counterfeiting adversely affects the ability of lawful copyright holders to profit from their original ideas. Counterfeiting also harms consumers because manufacturers of forged products have little motivation to use safe, high-quality materials in their products.”

When US customs officers identify goods they believe may infringe a company’s intellectual property rights, the items are seized before specialists from the agency work with rights holders to establish the authenticity or otherwise of the products in question.

CBP has said disrupting the flow of illicit goods is one of its top priorities, and has noted that the importation of bogus products, many of which come from China, can damage the US economy and threaten the health and safety of people living in America.

Over the three months prior to last November’s Black Friday weekend, customs officers in Louisville in the US state of Kentucky seized 164 shipments of fake items worth more than $95 million.

Back in September, CBP revealed that its agents at a cargo sorting centre in Kentucky had discovered counterfeit bracelets and other jewellery that would have been worth an estimated $90 million had they been genuine.

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