Interpol calls for more action to prevent "ransomware pandemic"

Secretary General Jürgen Stock calls for a global coalition to fight the growing number of attacks

The head of Interpol has urged police forces and industry partners to form a global coalition to prevent a potential ransomware pandemic.

Speaking at the international police organization’s forum this week, Secretary General Jürgen Stock said that while there were some national and bilateral efforts to fight ransomware, the fight against ransomware must adopt the same international collaboration used to fight terrorism, human trafficking or mafia groups.

“Despite the severity of their crimes, ransomware criminals are continuously adapting their tactics, operating free of borders and with near impunity,” Stock said. “Much like the pandemic it exploits, ransomware is evolving into different variants, delivering high financial profits to criminals.”

He added that ransomware had become too large 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.”

The call to scale up collaboration against ransomware was made in the face of its exponential growth in the wider cyber crime ecosystem, with criminals shifting their business model toward providing ransomware-as-a-service. 

Research from Chainalysis found that criminals made $350 million in 2020 from ransomware payments, an increase of 311% in one year. Over the same period, the average ransom payment increased by 171%, according to Palo Alto Networks.

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Tal Goldstein, head of strategy at the World Economic Forum’s Centre for Cybersecurity, said ransomware is emerging as the “Wild West” equivalent of digital space where anyone can become a victim at any point in time. 

“Curbing ransomware demands collective efforts from all to improve cyber hygiene across sectors, to raise cost and risk to cyber criminals through disruptive efforts, and to reduce payoff to the criminals,” he said.

Robert Golladay, an EMEA and APAC director at Illusive, told IT Pro we are suffering through one pandemic and heading straight for another, a global digital pandemic, led by the massive surge in ransomware attacks.  And most security leaders believe it’s not a matter of if but when. 

“These attacks are growing in size and sophistication, and huge amounts of consumer data are at risk. And if a company isn’t prepared, then the greater the damage. With that said, it will need international collaboration to succeed. Instead of looking at it as a separate problem that only those who have been hit must face, leaders everywhere must take an active stance to tackle this threat,” Golladay said.

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