Greater nation state collaboration is required to tackle the growing threat of cybercrime, according to panellists speaking during a session at the LORCA Live online event.
Troels Oerting, former head of World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) Centre for Cybersecurity, firstly outlined the relevance of cybersecurity to the WEF’s ‘Great Reset’ agenda, which advocates a global approach to tackling the world’s problems, such as inequalities. He noted it is estimated that 80% of the unwanted activity on the internet is attributed to criminal groups operating throughout the globe. Yet despite the vast majority of crime being caused by these types of actors, “the challenge we have is the police in Denmark, UK, Russia, China, US and other places cannot cooperate on targeting ordinary cybercrime because it seems to be linked to nation state activity in one big basket.”
As a result, Oerting believes that the focus should be on establishing dialogue between all countries in order to address regular cybercrime, before seeking to develop international norms to govern cyber-warfare between nation states. “Could we have a digital Geneva convention?” he asked.
This need for a reset in the approach to cybercrime has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to much greater reliance on the internet and digital technologies for both organizations and businesses. Eleanor Fairford, deputy director for incident management at the NCSC, explained that “it has been clear from the outset of this pandemic that this would provide the perfect opportunity for cyber-threat actors, both state-sponsored and criminal, to really exploit this increased digital connectivity we’re all undergoing in the current environment.” She added that, similarly to Oerting’s point, “the biggest threat in this space really is at the hands of those cyber-criminals.”
Working towards fostering greater collaboration between nation states in this realm, including between those in which there are a lot of tensions, is therefore vital. Sadly, at this stage, such a scenario is unrealistic in the view of Oerting. “I’m not sure that we have the right atmosphere right now,” he commented, adding that “to ask the Russians, Chinese, Americans and Europeans to be in the same room and discuss cybercrime honestly is probably one bridge too far right now.” However, while it may not be conceivable at this point, Oerting said “that shouldn’t stop us from promoting the idea” as such parties may be forced into more cooperation in the future because of the highly interconnected nature of cybercrime, affecting all parts of the world.
Fairford agreed, observing that while there is lots of collaboration in cybersecurity among like-minded nations in areas such as cyber-threat intelligence sharing, tensions with other countries have increased, largely as a result of cyber-espionage campaigns conducted by state actors during the pandemic. She said “there is still a way to go before we’re able to collaborate on those levels.” Nevertheless, “the sentiment is absolutely spot on and we should be seeking common ground and cybercrime is potentially one of those areas where we should look to work together.”