Domestic crime and geopolitics are converging in a growing new industry: ransomware attacks. Although most of these attacks can be prevented with basic cyber security measures, they increased in 2021.
Ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts files on a device, followed by a demand for a ransom in exchange for decryption. It is not a new racket, but it is growing. In Canada the average data breach (which includes other cyber crimes besides ransomware) is now $6.35 million CAD—which is actually an underestimate, since most ransomware attacks are never reported. The average ransom paid is about $200,000.
The most common target is a large organization that manages critical infrastructure such as energy, health, and manufacturing. Now the business model frequently is a sophisticated arrangement whereby the developer sells or leases ransomware to other criminals, then receives a percentage of the victims’ ransom payments. The criminals require payments to be made in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Monero, for these allow for the identity of the users to be concealed from law enforcement.
Some states—notably China, Iran, and Russia—are known to cooperate in ransomware crimes. The Russian intelligence services and law enforcement agencies associate with or even recruit cybercriminals, allowing them to operate with near impunity, so long as they attack targets only outside Russia or the former Soviet Union. The FSB has used cybercriminal groups called EvilCorp, DarkMatter, and DarkSide for its disruptive attacks. But law enforcement agencies in the US, Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Lithuania, and Ukraine have formed a coalition that, for example, has disrupted at least one of the ransomware botnets and arrested some of the criminals using it. To hinder ransomware operations, more states need to promote “know your customer” policies and “suspicious activity reports” by financial institutions, such as are already used to fight money laundering, drug trafficking, and terrorist financing.
Source: The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. cyber.gc.ca/en/guidance/cyber-threat-bulletinransomware-threat-2021
This year and last, UN meetings have been restricted by the pandemic. Nevertheless, the First Committee, which handles disarmament, is accomplishing a lot. Sanna Leena Orava (Finland), the Committee’s Rapporteur, observed that cooperation has been especially high in this session, which had completed its segments in record time, with 137 delegations making statements in the general debate and over 100 votes being requested. When Orava reported her Committee’s results to the General Assembly on December 5, it adopted their 55 recommendations in one day. In one draft, “Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments”, the Assembly called upon the nuclearweapon States to fulfill their commitments to reduce and ultimately eliminate all types of nuclear weapons.
Source: United Nations Meetings Coverage, 6 December 2021. www.un.org/press/en/2021/ga12392.doc.htm
Tuvalu’s foreign minister, Simon Kofe, gave a speech to the UN COP26 summit while standing knee-deep in seawater to show how his low-lying Pacific island nation is affected by climate change. The place where he stood used to be dry land. Pacific island leaders are demanding more rapid action, since the survival of their countries is at stake.
Source: World Economic Forum, Nov. 11, 2021. www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/11/tuvalu-minister-stands-in-sea-to-film-cop26-speech-to-show-climate-change