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Cybercrime

Updates

14 Dec 2016

Europol and RIPE Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC) - the Regional Internet Registry responsible for the allocation of Internet protocol (IP) addresses in Europe, Middle East, and parts of Central Asia - have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at fostering bilateral cooperation in tackling cybercrime and Internet security. While RIPE NCC has worked with Europol over the past several years (through, for example, offering training on issues such as searching for information in the RIPE database), this MoE is the first agreement that the entity has reached with a law enforcement agency.

8 Dec 2016

Almost one million routers within the Deutsche Telekom have been put down due to a cyber-attack, which caused a country-wide Internet outage for about 900,000 users. According to the official information, the attack attempted to infect the routers with malware but have instead crashed small percentage of them; a software update is now available. It is likely that the attack was caused by the modified version of the Mirai worm which employs thousands of hijacked Internet of Things devices, Wired reports. German Office for Information Security reported that this was part of a global campaign to take down parts of the Internet, and issued a statement that the attack has also targeted government networks. The Director of the German intelligence agency has expressed concerns that this attack may be part of the campaign to disrupt forthcoming federal elections next year.

21 Nov 2016

According to a new report by the Data & Society Research Institute and the Center for Innovative Public Health Research, 47% of Internet users in the USA have experienced online harassment or abuse. These experiences include direct harassment, invasion of privacy, and denial of access. Young people and sexual minorities are more likely to experience harassment or abuse, and women face a wider variety of harassment than men. 27% of US Internet users self-censor their online posts.

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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

Instruments

Conventions

Convention on Cybercrime (Budapest Convention) (2001)

Resolutions & Declarations

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)
Wuzhen World Internet Conference Declaration (2015)

Other Instruments

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

Resources

Publications

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

Reports

Comparative analysis of the Malabo Convention of the African Union and the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime (2016)
One Internet (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 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)
Quarterly Spam Reports
Infoblox DNS Threat Index

Other resources

Symantec 2015 Internet Security Threat Report (2015)
Symantec Monthly Threat Report

Processes

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.

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