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"Serious and organised crime continues to kill more people than any other national security threat, and has a corrosive impact on the UK and its citizens. Each of us is affected by it in some way. As a result, each

and every one of us has a role to play in fighting it"

Lynne Owens Director General National Crime Agency (NCA)

Source: National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime (2020)

what is serious and organised crime?

According to the 2018 Serious and Organised Crime Strategy, Serious and Organised Crime (SOC) Is defined as individuals planning, coordinating and committing serious offences, whether individually, in groups and/or as part of transnational networks.

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Exploitation of the Vulnerable

Child Sexual Abuse (CSA)

Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking

Organised Immigration Crime


Communities and Violence

Illegal Drugs

Illegal Firearms

Organised Acquisitive Crime


Harm to the UK’s Economy and Institutions

Cyber Crime


Money Laundering

Bribery, Corruption and Sanctions Evasion

Categories of Serious and Organised Crime


There is clearly an overlap between categories of SOC but there is also one clear common denominator across all: the utilisation of technology, which is easily available to us all. 

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Examples include: 

  • Encryption to enable anonymous communications 

  • Social media channels to find and groom their victims

  • Livestreaming utilising victims' devices

  • Dark web markets and forums

  • Open online markets and forums, hiding in plain sight

  • Secure messaging apps

  • Virtual assets e.g. Blockchain, Bitcoin, crypto assets and virtual currencies

100% of NCA investigations encounter some form of encryption


In the following section we take a closer look at one of the most sinister categories and its increasing reliance on technology: Child Sexual Abuse (CSA)


The term Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is described in the NCA’s National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime (2020) as covering a range of crimes, including contact offending, which involves direct physical contact, the generation and distribution of indecent images, as well as grooming and extortion.


The main driver of CSA is sexual gratification, while secondary drivers include power and control over victims,

CSA Statistics
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The number of unique first-generation images added to the Child Abuse Image Database between January 2015 and March 2019


The number of children in the UK safeguarded or protected in relation to online CSA in the year ending September 2019


The number of registered sex offenders being managed for CSA offending


The number of offenders on the dark web

> 300,000

The number of individuals in the UK estimated to pose a sexual threat to children through contact abuse or online

What You Can Do

Informing the police, Crimestoppers or Childline is the first course of action when child abuse is suspected.

Preventative action can also be taken by:

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Starting a positive online safety conversation with your child and remaining engaged in their online life. Continuing dialogue is key to keeping your child safe online.

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Setting up parental controls on your connection, devices and online services, and agreeing with your child safe privacy settings on the apps and sites they use.

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Child victims may display emotional symptoms such as staying away from others, avoiding being alone with people or appearing reluctant to socialise with a particular individual. They may display sexual behaviour that is inappropriate for their age or use unexpected sexual language.

NCA National Strategic Assessment 2020_P


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One final thought...

If you are responsible or accountable for the safety and security of your organisation and its systems, can you honestly put your hand on your heart and swear you have done everything within your power to ensure CSA images are not being stored, shared, processed or traded on your platforms or devices?


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The Cyber Threat to UK Businesses

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