UN worried with sharp rise in cybercrime rate during COVID-19 pandemic


United Nations: A 350 per cent increase in phishing websites was reported in the first quarter of the year. Most of the phishing was targetted hospitals and healthcare systems. In the process the phishing of websites hindered their work responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. This information was given by the United Nations (UN) counter-terrorism chief, Thursday. The United Nation is worried about the sharp rise in cybercrime, experts said.

Vladimir Voronkov told the UN Security Council (UNSC) that the upsurge in phishing sites was part of ‘a significant rise in cybercrime. The rise has been in ‘recent months’ and has been reported by speakers at last month’s first ‘Virtual Counter-terrorism Week’ at the United Nations.

Voronkov said the UN and global experts don’t yet fully understand ‘the impact and consequences of the pandemic on global peace and security, and more specifically on organised crime and terrorism’.

“We know that terrorists are exploiting the significant disruption and economic hardships caused by COVID-19. They are doing so to spread fear, hate and division and radicalise and recruit new followers,” Voronkov said. “The increase in internet usage and cybercrime during the pandemic further compounds the problem,” he added.

The week-long meeting was attended by representatives from 134 countries. Also joining the meeting were 88 civil society and private sector organisations, 47 international and regional organisations and 40 United Nations bodies.

Voronkov said the discussions showed a shared understanding and concern that ‘terrorists are generating funds from illicit trafficking in drugs, goods, natural resources and antiquities, as well as kidnapping for ransom, extorting and committing other heinous crimes’. He said UN member nations ‘are rightly focused on tackling the health emergency and human crisis caused by COVID-19’, but he urged them not to forget the threat of terrorism.

In many parts of the world, Voronkov said, ‘terrorists are exploiting local grievances and poor governance to regroup and assert their control’.

“The pandemic has the potential to act as a catalyst in the spread of terrorism and violent extremism by exacerbating inequalities, undermining social cohesion and fueling local conflicts,” Voronkov pointed out. “We must continue our fight against terrorist groups and criminal networks to deny them the opportunity to exploit the COVID-19 crisis,” he added.

Ghada Waly, executive director of the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime, told the council meeting on the linkage between counter-terrorism and transnational organised crime that the links are ‘complex and multifaceted’. He said that ‘the COVID-19 crisis poses a host of new challenges to national authorities’.

“Organised criminal groups and terrorists may seek to capitalise on and exploit new vulnerabilities,” Waly said. “Transit patterns are shifting in view of travel restrictions and lockdown measures, adding further challenges for border security,” she added.