The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to more digital transactions and increased online activity for both licit and illicit purposes, including the distribution of ransomware. Thanks to bad actors ranging from North Korean hackers to domestic cybercriminals, South Korea has a long history of exposure to this specific form of malware, which denies access to a computer system and/or digitalized files until a certain sum of money is paid, often through cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. As phishing schemes and ransomware attacks are likely to target provisional funds from the recently endorsed $30 billion pandemic-related relief budget, Seoul has committed to investing resources in both domestic and international efforts against cyber-enabled financial crime.
South Korea and like-minded countries should continue to invest in joint cyber operations and criminal investigations to expand their jurisdictional reach and enforcement capabilities.
Ransomware functions as an inexpensive tool to disrupt both major and minor network systems with potentially high financial gain, making it a significant cybersecurity threat for both the South Korean economy and the average citizen. The South Korean Ministry of Science and ICT has demonstrated particular interest in addressing this form of cyber-enabled financial crime in recent months. For example, the ministry organized two-week cybersecurity exercises for 230 Korean companies in May amid reporting that South Korea suffered 127 ransomware attacks last year, more than double the number of cases reported in 2018 and 2019 combined. Beyond informing these companies of the potential risks of ransomware, these exercises led to the detection of 114 security vulnerabilities, which could have resulted in exploitation via ransomware.
Read the full article from The Diplomat.
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