Ransomware has become a national security threat

Ransomware has become a national security threat

In 2022, the police pulled out all the stops to form a fist against hackers and cybercriminals. Multiple cybercrime investigations were conducted, and investments were also made in programs to make young people understand the consequences of cybercrime. The battle against ransomware, on the other hand, is far from won.

The police write this in its annual report for 2022.

The police got around to fewer high-tech crime investigations.

Last year, the police completed 49 cybercrime phenomenon investigations, and that is nine more than in 2021 when 40 of these types of investigations were completed. Phenomenon investigations are investigations conducted by police cybercrime teams that focus on combating cybercriminals and a specific advanced technological method to commit online crimes. Think of tackling phishinghelpdesk fraud or identity fraud.

The number of regular cybercrime investigations was much higher last year, and in the Security Agenda, that number was set at 310. In the end, agents succeeded in conducting 356 of these types of cybercrime investigations.

However, the number of high-tech crime investigations was lower than the norm. This is partly due to the increasing professionalization of severe organized crime. On the other hand, there is a stricter selection of high-tech crime investigations. “These complex investigations require more time and capacity,” the police said. The intended number of high-tech crime investigations is, therefore, no longer in line with current practice.

Police decrypted 150 victims’ computer systems.

Ransomware has become a national security risk in recent years, according to the police in its annual report. In their own words, it is an attractive revenue model for cybercriminals, which is also known as Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS). An important reason for this is that attackers do not need to be tech-savvy to carry out a ransomware attack.

Another reason why ransomware attacks are so popular with cybercriminals is that their victims are not resilient enough against such attacks. In addition, victims are very willing to pay, and many victims are unwilling to report an attack.

“Civilians, companies and government organizations are all victims, and the consequences often have an impact not only on organizations themselves but also on society. When a hospital is the target of an attack, patients or their data, for example, could be at risk,” the police said. That is why the approach to ransomware has been intensified in the past year. For example, the police restored the computer systems of 150 ransomware victims.

Youth prevention

In addition to detection and disruption, the police also focused on prevention. For example, games have been developed with partners aimed explicitly at children. An example is the HackShield platform, which aims to inspire children aged 8 to 12 to acquire digital skills and spread this knowledge among peers and parents.

Another example is the game Framed, which lets players experience cybercrime as a criminal offence and what the consequences can be for victims. A new project that got off the ground last year is Hack_Light. This program is intended for ‘whizz kids’ who have not yet come into contact with criminal law but who are at risk, partly due to their curiosity.

Hack_Right was handed over to probation partners. This is a program set up by the police to prevent the recidivism of young, convicted cybercriminals and to help them use their talents and ICT knowledge for good.

Crime fighting under pressure

The police recognize that it is very important that agents respond quickly and effectively to cybercrime. The police have a total of 63,161 full-time employees. Despite this, there is a need for almost 12,000 FTEs, and this is due to the current scarcity in the labour market.

In addition, the police work with outdated systems. For example, the police tapping system has been plagued by technical problems for years. At the end of last year, Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius of Justice and Security denied that agents are at risk due to malfunctions in this system. A new tap system is in the works, but it may take years before it is ready.

These developments put the fight against crime under pressure. That is why the cyber security program was reassessed in 2022. Other priorities have been set and implemented. “Part of the ambitions have been postponed to the coming period,” the police write.

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