Cybercrime

Updates

The Council of the European Union adopted the EU Law Enforcement Emergency Response Protocol that gives a central role to Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) to support EU law enforcement authorities in providing response to cross-border cyber incidents of a suspected criminal nature.
The protocol determines the procedures, roles, and responsibilities of key agencies and players; promotes rapid assessment of cyber threats; secure and timely sharing of critical information through special communication channels and points of contact; as well as co-ordination of cross-border investigations. It aims to complement the EU's crisis management processes by streamlining transnational co-operation and enabling collaboration with network security community and partners from the private sector.



 

Singapore is another country which announced investment in experts to deal with issues connected to cyberdefence such as cyber incident responses, network monitoring and vulnerability assessment. It opened a school to arm future recruits with the necessary skill sets.

The Australian Parliament has adopted the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2019. The Bill replaced the definitions of systemic weaknesses and vulnerabilities, which are now defined only as affecting ‘a whole class of technology’, and don’t include those ‘selectively introduced to one or more target technologies that are connected with a particular person’, thereby possibly creating space for those selectively introduced to be exploited by the law enforcement agencies. In addition, the new section (317ZG) introduces certain limitations to law enforcement measures, by specifying that technical assistance requests and notices, and technical capability notices, cannot have the effect of creating new decryption capabilities or weakening existing authentication or encryption mechanisms, or create a risk that otherwise secure information be compromised by unauthorised third parties.

Bank of Valletta (BOV) has suspended all its operations, including ATM machines, point-of-sale systems, online banking, website, and communications systems, after unknown hackers broke into its network and transferred 13 million euro to accounts in the US, the UK, the Czech Republic, and Hong Kong. According to Times of Malta, BoV has confirmed that customer accounts, funds, and data, were not compromised, because hackers breached the payment processing system from BOV’s account, not customers’. Contrary to the initial belief expressed by the Maltese Prime Minister that stolen funds would be retrieved, BOV officials expressed concerns that this may not be possible. Several local businesses that rely on BOV were affected, not being able to process related payments. BOV accounts for about half of Maltese banking transactions.

E-mail provider VFEmail suffered a hack aimed at destroying user data, almost losing 18 years’ worth of customer e-mail. On 11 February,  VFEmail tweeted that all externally facing systems in multiple data centers were down. Later, the company revealed that an attacker formatted all disks on every server and that every VM, file server and backup server were lost. On 17 February the company unearthed an older backup server which was last backed up in August 2016. The next day, all mailboxes prior to August 2016 became available at nl101.vfemail.net port 1144. The company tweeted it will not shut down and that it hopes it can recover user data between June 2016 and February 2019. They also clarified that the US data center has been vacated and that the company will run entirely from the data center in Netherlands.

EU’s Horizontal Working Party on Cyber Issues is developing a sanctions regime to deter and respond to cyber-attacks, which builds on the EU Cyber Diplomacy Toolbox. An internal memo ‘Cyber Diplomacy Toolbox – Options for a restrictive measures framework to respond to or deter cyber activities that threaten the security or foreign policy interests of the Union or its Member States’ outlined a regime to sanction foreign hacker groups, involved in data breaches, intellectual property theft and stealing of classified information, attacks on IT and critical infrastructure, as well as election hacks, Bloomberg reports. Sanctions, which include asset freezes and travel bans, can be put in place regardless of the attack succeeding or not, if the victim is an EU country or an EU partner. Measures will, however, have to be accompanied by criminal evidences, defensible at the European Court of Justice, thus allowing prosecuted parties to appeal the decision. In addition, when imposing sanctions, unanimity will be required among EU member states. According to Politico, the plan will be forwarded to foreign affairs attachés, and the regime is expected to be in place before the elections for the European Parliament in May, in order to avoid possible interference with the elections.

Cybercrime is crime committed via the Internet and computer systems. One category of cybercrimes are those affecting the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data and computer systems; they include: unauthorised access to computer systems, illegal interception of data transmissions, data interference (damaging, deletion, deterioration, alteration of suppression of data), system interference (the  hindering without right of the functioning of a computer or other device), forgery, fraud, identity theft.  

Other types of cybercrimes are content-related, and involve the production, offering, distribution, procurement and possession of online content deemed as illegal according to national laws: online child sexual abuse material, material advocating a terrorist-related act, extremist material (material encouraging hate, violence or acts of terrorism), cyber-bullying (engaging in offensive, menacing or harassing behaviour through the use of technology).

 

Cybercrime is part of a broader cybersecurity approach, and is aimed ensuring Internet safety and security.

Cybercrime: Threats and attacks

The techniques used to facilitate the types of cybercrime that affect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data and system are very diverse and more and more sophisticated. Some of the most widespread techniques include:

Malicious software: This includes viruses, spyware, and other unwanted software that is installed on computer and other devices without permission and performs unwanted tasks, often for the benefit of the attacker. These programs can damage devices, and can be used to steal personal information, monitor and control online activity, send spam and commit fraud, as well as infect other machines on the network. They also can make devices vulnerable to viruses and deliver unwanted or inappropriate online advertisements.

Viruses, trojan horses, adware, and spyware are all types of malware. A virus can replicate itself and spread to other devices, without the user being aware. Although some viruses are latent, most of them are intended to interfere with data or affect the performance of devices (reformatting the hard disk, using up computer memory, etc). A trojan horse is a type of malware that is often disguised as legitimate software. Trojans can be employed by cyber-thieves and hackers trying to gain access to users' systems. Users are typically tricked by some form of social engineering into loading and executing Trojans on their systems. Once activated, Trojans can enable cyber-criminals to spy on users, steal sensitive data, and gain backdoor access to users’ system. Adware collects marketing data and other information without the user's knowledge, or redirects search requests to certain advertising websites. Spyware monitors users, gathers information about them and transmits it to interested parties, without the use being aware. Types of information that is gathered can include: the websites visited, browser and system information, the computer IP address, as well as more sensitive information such as e-mail addresses, and passwords. Additionally, malware can cause browser hijacking, in which the user’s browser settings are modified without permission. The software may create desktop shortcuts, display advertising pop-ups, as well as replace existing home pages or search pages with other pages.

Botnets: Botnets are networks of hijacked personal computers that perform remotely commanded tasks without the knowledge of their owners. A computer is turned into a bot after being infected with specific type of malware which allows remote control. Botnets are used for a wide variety of crimes and attacks: distributing spam, extending malware infections to more computers, contributing to pay-per-click frauds, or identity theft. One of the most worrying uses of botnets is to perform distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Researchers and cybersecurity companies have warned that botnets are becoming the biggest Internet security threat, as they are increasing the effects of viruses and other malicious programs, raise information theft, and boost denial of service attacks.  As an illustration of the dimension of this threat, the Simda botnet, taken down in April 2015, affected computers in 190 countries and involved the use of 14 command-and-control servers in five countries.

Denial of service (DoS) attacks: These attacks involve flooding a computer or website with information, preventing them to function properly. These attacks are aimed to exhaust the resources available to a network, application or service, in order to prevent users from accessing them. They are more frequently targeted as businesses, rather than individuals. Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are those attacks in which multiples compromised computers attack a single target.

A DoS attack does not usually result in the theft of information or other security loss, but it can cause financial or time loss to the affected organisation or individual, because of its effects (particular network services becoming unavailable, websites ceasing operation, targeted email accounts prevented from receiving legitimate emails, etc.)

Legal frameworks

Since cybercrime transcends borders, any legal framework needs to be common among countries and this requires improved international cooperation. This international cooperation may be bilateral, regional, continental, or universal.

Most bilateral agreements on law enforcement come by way of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs). This provides an effective tool for cross-border investigations and prosecution.

At regional level, various regional blocks have developed frameworks for their regions in cybercrime legislation. The Organization of American States (OAS) created a framework of guidelines to manage cybercrime as early as 1999. In 2009 the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) adopted a directive on fighting cybercrime, and in 2011 the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) presented the Cybersecurity Draft Model Bill. In June 2014, the African Union adopted the Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection.

Several international frameworks have already been created to fight cybercrime, the most prominent of which is the Council of Europe's Convention on Cybercrime, which contains provisions on types of offenses, procedural Laws and international cooperation among countries.

Combating cybercrime

The application of technical solutions to combat cybercrime has always been the preferred option for most cybersecurity experts. However, most law enforcement personnel are not equipped with the requisite technological knowledge while most cybercriminals are experts in computer technology. Various organisations, such as the United States Department of Justice and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), have initiated capacity building programmes for developing countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and Pacific as well as other countries in legislative drafting and prosecution of cybercrime.

As measures to combat cybercrime continue to multiply, various organisations have established their individual structures for cybersecurity. It is not uncommon for private organisations to have their own in-house rules on the acceptable use of their networks and also to educate their clients or staff on the issues of cybercrime. Some groups of organisations have also set up Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) to assist in the technical handling of cybercrime, especially those targeted at computer networks.

Several multinational organisations have also contributed to the fight against cybercrime. These organisations have a unique role as some of them control the infrastructure on which the Internet runs, and include the US National Cyber Security Alliance and INTERPOL.

Other regional legal instruments include: the League of Arab States Convention on Combating IT Offences (2010), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of International Information Security, and the African Union Convention on the Confidence and Security in Cyberspace (2014).

On the global level, the UNODC is the leading organisation, with a set of international instruments to fight cybercrime. Since cybercrime often involves an organised approach, the UNODC’s Convention against Transnational Organised Crime could be used in the fight against cybercrime. Interpol facilitates a global network of 190 national police organisations, which plays a key role in the cross-border investigation of cybercrime. The ITU hosts the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) implementation process in cybersecurity, labelled the ITU Global Security Agenda.

Events

Actors

(CoE)

The Council of Europe has been actively involved in policy discussions on the issue of net neutrality.

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The Council of Europe has been actively involved in policy discussions on the issue of net neutrality. In 2010, the Committee of Ministers adopted a Declaration on network neutrality declaring its commitment to the principle of net neutrality. Later on, and in line with the Council’s Internet Governance Strategy, the Committee adopted a Recommendation on protecting and promoting the right to freedom of expression and the right to private life with regard to network neutrality, calling on member states to safeguard net neutrality in legal frameworks. Issues related to net neutrality and its connections with human rights are also tackled in events organised and studies conducted by the Council.

(Spamhaus)

Spamhaus’s work focuses on tracking spam and providing realtime actionable threat intelligence to the Internet

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Spamhaus’s work focuses on tracking spam and providing realtime actionable threat intelligence to the Internet’s major networks, corporations, and security vendors. It also works with law enforcement agencies to identify and pursue spam worldwide. It maintains several realtime threat and reputation blocklists which protect over two billion user mailboxes and block the vast majority of spam and malware sent out on the Internet. In addition, the organisation publishes regularly updated statistics on issues such as: spam enabling countries, Internet service providers with the worst reputation for hosting spam operations, top-level domains with the worst reputation for spam operations.

(M3AAWG)

The M3AAWG began as an anti-spam consortium, but has evolved to focus on the root cause of the issue, from bot

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The M3AAWG began as an anti-spam consortium, but has evolved to focus on the root cause of the issue, from bots and malware to spyware and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Styled as a forum that works under Chatham House Rules, the M3AAWG works on developing policy comments and industry best practices. In direct relation to spam, most recently, it has released instructional videos on the Canadian Anti-Spam Law. Other spam-related initiatives include the India Anti-Abuse Working Group various meetings and event focused on ways to tackle spam challenges.

(Spamhaus)

Spamhaus’s work focuses on tracking spam and providing realtime actionable threat intelligence to the Internet

...

Spamhaus’s work focuses on tracking spam and providing realtime actionable threat intelligence to the Internet’s major networks, corporations, and security vendors. It also works with law enforcement agencies to identify and pursue spam worldwide. It maintains several realtime threat and reputation blocklists which protect over two billion user mailboxes and block the vast majority of spam and malware sent out on the Internet. In addition, the organisation publishes regularly updated statistics on issues such as: spam enabling countries, Internet service providers with the worst reputation for hosting spam operations, top-level domains with the worst reputation for spam operations.

(UNODC)

The UNODC’s work in the area of cybercrime is part of its wider programme on transnational organised crime, an

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The UNODC’s work in the area of cybercrime is part of its wider programme on transnational organised crime, and is mainly focused on assisting member states in strengthening their capacities to combat and prevent cybercrime. In doing so, the Office works together with national and regional partners, to improve countries’ understanding of cybercrime and related responses, enhance knowledge and skills to identity and prevent cybercrime, and strengthen regional cooperation. In 2013, the UNODC conducted a comprehensive study of cybercrime related threats and legal responses. It has also developed a Cybercrime Repository, aimed to serve as a central data repository of cybercrime laws and lesson learned.

(UCENET)

UCENET works on promoting international cooperation in addressing span-related challenges and in enforcing app

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UCENET works on promoting international cooperation in addressing span-related challenges and in enforcing applicable legislation. Its activities are built around four main areas: intelligence, enforcement, communications, and training. The London Action Plan, adopted in 2004, describes the commitment of the network’s member to strengthen spam enforcement cooperation. In 2016, 11 enforcement authorities members of the network signed a Memorandum of Understanding, as an additional framework for information and intelligence sharing in the fight against spam. The network has contributed, together with the Internet Society and the Messaging, Malware, Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group, to the development of tutorials on combating spam.

Instruments

Conventions

International Telecommunication Regulations (WCIT-12) (2012)
Convention on Cybercrime (Budapest Convention) (2001)

Resolutions & Declarations

Wuzhen World Internet Conference Declaration (2015)
ITU Resolution 52: Countering and combating spam (2012)
IPU Resolution on the Contribution of new information and communication technologies to good governance, the improvement of parliamentary democracy and the management of globalization (2003)

Standards

Recommendation ITU-T X.1240 - ‘Technologies involved in countering e-mail spam’ (2008)

Other Instruments

UNODC Comprehensive Study on Cybercrime (2013)
Directive on fighting cybercrime within ECOWAS (2011)

Resources

Publications

Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)

Papers

Fighting Spam by Breaking the Economy of Advertising by Unsolicited Emails (2015)
The Harvester, the Botmaster, and the Spammer: On the Relations Between the Different Actors in the Spam Landscape (2014)

Reports

Rule of Law and Democracy in the Digital Society: Challenges and Opportunities for Europe (2018)
Digital Dangers – Responding to the illicit wildlife trade online: what do we know? (2018)
Towards a secure cyberspace via regional co-operation (2017)
Comparative analysis of the Malabo Convention of the African Union and the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime (2016)
One Internet (2016)
Kaspersky Security Bulletin. Spam and Phishing in 2015 (2016)
Stocktaking, Analysis and Recommendations on the Protection of CIIs (2016)
The Global Risks Report 2016 (2016)
National Security Implications of Virtual Currency. Examining the Potential for Non-state Actor Deployment (2015)
Best Practice Forum on the Regulation and Mitigation of Unsolicited Communications (2015)
Best Practices to Address Online, Mobile, and Telephony Threats (2015)
A Survey on the Transposition of Directive 2011/93/EU on Combating Sexual Abuse and Sexual Exploitation of Child and Child Pornography (2015)
Global Cybersecurity Index & Cyberwellness Profiles (2015)
Best Practice Forum on Regulation and Mitigation of Unsolicited Communications (e.g. “spam”) (2014)
Quarterly Spam Reports
Infoblox DNS Threat Index

GIP event reports

Side event: Public views on fully autonomous weapons (2019)
Applying Technology to Reinforce Security and Promote Development (2018)
DNS Quo Vadis – Addressing Challenges and the Future Functionality of the DNS (2018)
Big Data and Conflict Prevention: Balancing Opportunities with Challenges (2017)
Recent Cyber Incidents - Patterns, Vulnerabilities and Concerns (2017)
Looking Ahead: What to Expect in the Cyber Realm (2017)
DNS Abuse Discussions at ICANN60 (2017)
Global Survey of Internet User Perceptions (2017)
Cybersecurity and Cybercrime: New Tools for Better Cyber Protection (2017)
Report for World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2017 (2017)

Other resources

The Twitter Rules (2016)
Combating Spam and Mobile Threats - Tutorials (2016)
Symantec 2015 Internet Security Threat Report (2015)
Combating Spam: Policy, Technical and Industry Approaches (2012)
The Top 10 Worst
Symantec Monthly Threat Report
M3AAWG Best Practices
Global Spam Map
Global Legal Summaries about Regulatory and Policy Updates Related to Digital Advertising

Processes

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WSIS Forum 2019

UNCTAD 2019

13th IGF 2018

WSIS Forum 2018

12th IGF 2017

WSIS Forum 2017

IGF 2016

WSIS Forum 2016

WSIS10HL

IGF 2015

WSIS Forum 2016 Report

Session 161 on Cyberlaw, Bitcoins, Blockchains, Cybercrimes & Darknet looked at obstacles faced by the enforcement of existing national cyber-related laws, such as multiple jurisdictions applying to cloud and web content (especially the Dark Web) and generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) and Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs), the unclear ownership of personal data collected by gadgets such as wearables and stored in the cloud, and the criminal misuse of new technologies like bitcoin and cryptocurrencies.

WSIS Forum 2016 Report

Spam related challenged faced by emerging economies were discussed in Spam: Understanding and Mitigating the Challenges Faced by Emerging Internet Economies (session 152). It was underlined during the session that spam has become a complex issue, as it is more and more associated with malicious content, and that emerging economies may not have enough technical, human, and financial resources to fight it. Possible modalities to break the vicious cycle of spam generation were discussed (such as spam filtering, intrusion detection, antiviruses and patches, and user education), and reference was made to key areas emerging economies need to work on to combat spam (legislation (with clear rules in place), staff (with technical and legal expertise), and tools).

 

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