Ransomware remains the greatest cyber-dependent crime facing the international community, with world leaders urged to take action against a threat that has resulted in breaches affecting over 2 billion European Union (EU) citizen records in the last year, according a new Europol report.

The EU policing agency released its 2017 Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment report on Wednesday, where it detailed the surge in cyber crime, specifically attacks designed to block access to critical data until a ransom is paid.iStock Cyber Lock

“The global impact of huge cyber security events such as the WannaCry ransomware epidemic has taken the threat from cybercrime to another level. Banks and other major businesses are now targeted on a scale not seen before and, while Europol and its partners in policing and Industry have enjoyed success in disrupting major criminal syndicates operating online, the collective response is still not good enough. In particular people and companies everywhere must do more to better protect themselves,” Europol Executive Director Rob Wainwright said in a statement. 

The WannaCry ransomware attack in May affected over 300,000 computer systems worldwide, where it took control of encrypted data files until the user sent a Bitcoin payment to the perpetrator. 

Despite several successful cross-border operations to thwart potential cyber adversaries’ attempts at planting botnets to infiltrate critical networks, the report urges EU nations to devote more resources to avoid the ramifications of future attacks.

The report recommends EU law enforcement agencies focus on prioritizing the  development of cybercrime tools to protect against malware threats, baking Trojans and distributed denial of service (DDoS) methods.

“Cross-border cyber threats today threaten not only our citizens and our economies, but also our democracies themselves. Cybercrime has become increasingly instrumental in geopolitics and conflicts. With a new EU cyber strategy, and a stronger role for European agencies, including ENISA (European Agency for Network and Information Security) and Europol, we will be better equipped to increase cyber security collectively, in Europe and beyond,” EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said in a statement.

Insider threats and poor digital hygiene will continue to increase the proliferation of successful malware attacks such as WannaCry. Inadequate cyber security policy for governmental agencies will continue to result in sensitive data breaches, according the report.

“One unintended positive aspect of [WannaCry] is something of a global awakening, raising awareness of the threat worldwide and creating an opportunity for IT security issues to be taken more seriously by businesses and organisations, including the need for improved patch and vulnerability management,” Europol writes in its report.

The report was led by Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, and features contributions from EU member states, the EU Cybercrime Taskforce and Europol’s Analysis Projects Cyborg.