The world’s police forces have to form a global coalition with private partners to prevent a potential ransomware pandemic, according to Interpol’s secretary-general Juergen Stock.

“Policing needs to harness the insights of the cyber security industry, computer emergency response teams and other agencies to identify and disrupt cyber criminals as part of a true coalition, working together to reduce the global impact of cybercrime,” he said at the organisation’s high-level forum on ransomware this week.

While some solutions existed nationally or bi-laterally, effective prevention and disruption of ransomware meant adopting the same international collaboration used to fight terrorism, human trafficking or mafia groups such as the ’Ndrangheta, he stated.

The wider cybercrime ecosystem is growing exponentially with criminals shifting their business model towards providing ransomware-as-a-service.

“Despite the severity of their crimes, ransomware criminals are continuously adapting their tactics, operating free of borders and with near impunity,” he added.

“Much like the pandemic, it exploits. Ransomware is evolving into different variants, delivering high financial profits to criminals.

“Ransomware has become too large of a threat for any entity or sector to address alone: the magnitude of this challenge urgently demands united global action,” Stock said.

Interpol cited research showing that criminals made $350m (€295m) last year from ransomware payments, a four-fold increase on 2019, with the average ransom payment going up 171%.

Tal Goldstein, head of strategy at the World Economic Forum’s centre for cybersecurity, said: “Ransomware is emerging as the ‘Wild West’ equivalent of digital space where anyone, at any point of time, can become a victim.

“Curbing ransomware demands collective efforts from all to improve cyber hygiene across sectors, to raise cost and risk to cybercriminals through disruptive efforts and to reduce payoff to the criminals.”

Participants at the forum agreed to:

  • Prevent ransomware by raising awareness, partnerships and information sharing;

  • Aim for pre-exploit disruption of ransomware and its ecosystem through global law enforcement actions;

  • Provide emergency support against ransomware attacks with the use of Interpol’s global network and capabilities; and  

  • Ensure post-attack support to increase resilience, agility and responsiveness.

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