How Washington fumbled the future
The head of the U.N.’s anti-cybercrime unit talks to Rest of World about how bad actors have managed to exploit the pandemic.
The pandemic has been an unusually chaotic time for Neil Walsh, the chief of the United Nations’ cybercrime, anti-money-laundering, and counterterrorism department. As the global lockdown forced much of the world’s population to conduct their lives online, cybercriminals followed, finding novel ways to exploit the pandemic. And Walsh has had a front-row seat as this new wave of cybercrime has broken.
Whether through off-the-shelf malware or more sophisticated hacking techniques, cybercriminals have made a killing off the global health crisis, often at the expense of the most vulnerable individuals and institutions. While it’s difficult to measure exact costs, some estimate that cybercrime cost the global economy more than $1 trillion in 2020 — the equivalent of 1% of the worldwide GDP. By the U.N.’s own estimates, email-delivered malware ballooned by as much as 600%, and ransomware attacks by more than 40%, compared to the year prior. Walsh has been helping member states coordinate efforts to combat these increases and developing programs to raise awareness of them.