'Malicious emails see increase in pandemic'

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The UN disarmament chief warned Friday that cyber crime is on the rise, with a 600 per cent increase in malicious emails during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Izumi Nakamitsu told an informal meeting of the UN Security Council that the coronavirus crisis is moving the world toward increased technological innovation and online collaboration. But she said “there have also been worrying reports of (cyber) attacks against health care organizations and medical research facilities worldwide.”

The high representative for disarmament affairs said growing digital dependency has increased the vulnerability to cyberattacks, and it is estimated that one such attack takes place every 39 seconds.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, she said, nearly 90 countries are still only at the early stages of making commitments to cybersecurity.

Nakamitsu said the threat from misusing information and communications technology “is urgent.” But she said there is also good news, pointing to some global progress at the United Nations to address the threats by a group of government expert who developed 11 voluntary non-binding norms of responsible state behaviour in the use of such technology.

“We have witnessed malicious cyber activity that appears designed to undermine the United States and our international partners’ efforts to protect, assist, and inform the public during this global pandemic,” Acting US Deputy Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet told Friday’s meeting.

She warned that actions hampering hospital and health care systems that perform critical services “could have deadly results.”