UN Reports “A Significant Rise in Cybercrime in Recent Months”

In the first quarter of the year, a 350 percent increase in phishing websites was registered, many targeting hospitals and health care systems and impeding their work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.N. The head of counter terrorism said Thursday.

Vladimir Voronkov has already told the U.N. Security Council reported by speakers at the United Nations’ first Virtual Counterrorism Week last month that the upsurge in phishing sites was part of a “significant rise in cybercrime in recent months.”

It also said that the U.N. And global experts still do not fully understand “the impact and implications of the pandemic on global peace and security, and more specifically on organized crime and terrorism.”

“We know terrorists are exploiting the significant disruption and economic hardships caused by COVID-19 to spread fear, hate and divide and radicalize and recruit new followers,” Voronkov said. “The problem is further compounded by the increase in Internet use and cybercrime during the pandemic.”

Representatives from 134 countries, 88 civil society and private-sector organizations, 47 international and regional organizations and 40 UN bodies attended the week-long meeting, he said.

Under-Secretary-General Voronkov said the discussions showed a shared understanding and concern that “terrorists are generating funds from the illicit trafficking in drugs, goods, natural resources and antiques, as well as kidnapping for ransom, extorting and committing other heinous crimes.”

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He used to claim U.N. Member nations “are rightly focused on addressing COVID-19’s health emergency and human tragedy,” but he urged them not to ignore the threat of terrorism.

“Terrorists exploit local grievances and poor governance to regroup and regain their power” Voronkov said in many parts of the world.

“The pandemic has the potential to act as a catalyst in the spread of terror and violent extremism by exacerbating inequalities, undermining social cohesion and fueling local conflicts,” Voronkov said. “We must continue our fight against terrorist groups and criminal networks so that they are denied the opportunity to exploit the COVID-19 crisis.”

Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the U.N. Drugs and Crime Office in Vienna, told the council meeting on the relation between counter-terrorism and transnational organized crime that the relations are “complex and multifaceted,” and that “the COVID-19 crisis raises a host of new challenges for national authorities.”

“Organized criminal groups and terrorists that try to capitalize on and exploit new vulnerabilities,” she said, “and in view of travel restrictions and shutdown measures, transit patterns are changing, adding more challenges to border security.”

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