EDWARD SNOWDEN and the subsequent rise of encryption are making cybercrime investigations more challenging, the head of Interpol's European Cybercrime Centre, Troels Oerting has said.
Speaking in an interview with BBC's Tech Tent radio show, Oerting declared that people have confused privacy with anonymity since Edward Snowden began making his PRISM revelations, and that the criminals have an advantage because of this confusion and have been given a pass by the "good guys of the internet".
Oerting also suggested that the security agencies should have the right to access anonymous accounts, but that this should happen only with some judicial oversight.
"They have an advantage," he said. "You have a right to privacy, but that does not mean you have the right to be anonymous. There must a possibility for law enforcement with a warrant from a judge to actually access some information."
He added that the increased use of encryption is making it "difficult" for everybody, including the police.
Joining his opinions about Snowden, the cyber security head also revealed his beliefs that there are just 100 cybercrime masterminds in the world at present.
He said that, while the "rather limited group of good programmers" is small at the moment, it will grow, as will the number of targets and victims and there is a desperate need to tackle them.
Oerting suggested that investigators are close to breaking down the groups and toppling the leaders, but law enforcement needs to focus efforts on these hackers.
"We roughly know who they are. If we can take them out of the equation the rest will fall down," he said.
"This is not a static number. It will increase, unfortunately. We can still cope but the criminals have more resources and they do not have obstacles," he said, adding that they are driven by greed and produce malware at a speed that Interpol can't keep up with.
"It is so easy to be a cyber criminal. You don't have to be a cyber expert because you just download the programs that you want to use," he added.
The centre of this criminal activity is Russia, said Oerting, adding that illegal work done in the country spreads out across Europe and the globe.
"Criminals no longer come to our countries. They commit their crimes from a distance and because of this I cannot use the normal tools to catch them," he added.
"I have to work with countries I am not used to working with and that scares me a bit."
Last week, Europol warned that the internet or the Internet of Things will be used to murder someone this year, telling users that their smartwatch may be planning to turn their own hand against them. µ
EC says merged entity will 'continue to face significant competition'
Alexa, give me a reason to be cheerful about the UK economy
No, it isn't 1 April
Uniloc claims feature infringes a previously HP-owned patent