Across the globe, law enforcement agencies have been struggling to combat ransomware, a unique form of cybercrime that has surged during the COVID-19 pandemic as large swaths of the population have adapted to work from home and office spaces have become increasingly digital, Interpol said.
“Ransomware is a type of malicious software criminals use to take files on a device hostage by encrypting the data and subsequently refusing access to them. To regain access to the files, the victim needs to pay the criminal a ransom,” Europol explained in a 2020 report.
Though the pandemic has created a lucrative opening for all manner of cybercrimes, from “phishing” attacks to disinformation campaigns, ransomware remains one of the most dangerous.
Only recently an attack on the Colonial Pipeline left much of the U.S. without gas and the global meat supplier JBS, paid US$11 million to its systems.
According to Chainalysis, a cryptocurrency watchdog NGO, ransomware attackers were paid $406 million in 2020 and $81 million by May of 2021 alone.
To combat the trend, Interpol brought together some 300 senior law enforcement officers from 167 to brainstorm new approaches to the crime at their 16th annual conference last week.
Their conclusion was that increased international cooperation remains key.
“Law enforcement agencies must understand that globally there will always be new ways and means of committing crime using cyberspace and that they should continually develop strategies to properly deal with these issues,” Jamaican police superintendent Paulette Green said.
”Cyber-related evidence is time-sensitive and when investigating any crime law enforcement must be able to capitalize on such opportunities as soon as possible,” she added.
In a later statement, Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock called on global law enforcement agencies to use the same level of cooperation they use to combat terrorism and transnational organized crime to combat the threat of ransomware.
“Ransomware has become too large of a threat for any entity or sector to address alone; the magnitude of this challenge urgently demands united global action which INTERPOL can uniquely facilitate as a neutral and trusted global partner,” Stock said.
“Policing needs to harness the insights of the cyber security industry, computer emergency response teams and other agencies to identify and disrupt cyber criminals as part of a true coalition, working together to reduce the global impact of cybercrime,” he added