The technological fight against cybercrime

2 min

Like covid-19, cybercrime seems to be here to stay. Perhaps we cannot speak of a pandemic, but we can speak of a new type of crime that is growing like wildfire and that we are already seeing that it can affect everyone. The case of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) has made this porosity evident: any business or institution, however small it may be -even a private individual-, can be the victim of an attack, especially of the ransomware type which are now the most common. They are the pirates of the 21st century: they do not attack ships, but computers, but they also demand ransoms to free them. By now it is a problem of global vulnerability. No one escapes it. Interpol, which defines the situation as "critical", is calling for a joint global strategy. It is estimated that 1,500 attacks take place every day in the world, and the rate is growing all the time. It seems that half of the victims end up paying, even though the police strongly recommend against it because the logical consequence is that by doing so cybercrime is reinforced and, in addition, no one can guarantee that after a while you will not suffer an attack again; you may have reinforced your security systems, but you have also sent a message of weakness to extortionists. The right course of action is to report it and to act quickly through experts within the hacked computer system to minimise the damage.

What has so far proved very difficult is the detection and apprehension of the criminals, most of whom operate from countries outside the EU with which police cooperation is difficult. Often an attack consists of different actors located in different countries and working in mafia structures. Moreover, they are becoming more sophisticated and better prepared. And they look for more lucrative victims, as would be the case of the UAB, attacked by the PYSA ransomware (Protect Your System Amigo). Hence the demand of Interpol to seek international coordination. A cooperation that would also have to include the cryptocurrencies factor, which are the usual form of payment, difficult to trace. Here, too, regulation would be needed, which is far from simple. However, economists with expertise in this area believe, once again, that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are here to stay, despite the criminal use that is being made of them. The problem would not be so much the digital currency as crime, which is always reinventing itself. In any case, given the growth of ransomware transactions, it is an issue that needs to be addressed. The fight against ransomware has to be delivered, then, above all in the technological field (both from the police field, in the pursuit of cybercriminals, and to improve computer security), without forgetting the cryptocurrency trail.