The fast pace of technological advances over the last few years have brought considerable benefits to modern society. The developments of online technology, such as the Internet, have led to limitless possibilities for information and communications. And because they are accessible to all they have changed the way we communicate and integrate with one another in an immediate way, no matter where we are.
At the same time, as always happens, technological advances can also be used in an illegal, deceitful way by criminals. Over the last few years, in Europe alone, the malicious use of software has affected thousands of people. In 2018, more than 600,000 people who used the Internet ended up victims of what is known as ransomware. With this tactic, criminals can steal the documents and information of other people from their computers and other technological equipment and threaten them that if they do not pay a sum of money, they can forget about their data because they will no longer have a access to it. Although normally the victims of these crimes are individuals, sometimes even businesses and government entities are targeted.
In response to an increase in ransomware, Europol – the EU agency which enforces laws – is working tirelessly to address this problem. Europol is based at The Hague, in the Netherlands and works in full co-ordination with all EU member states to protect citizens and business from terrorist attacks, cyber crime and other forms of organised crime.
Europol, along with other partners, including the Dutch Police and the anti-virus companies companies McAfee and Kaspersky Lab, have launched the website No More Ransom. Through this website, the victims of ransomware are given a code so that they can regain access to their data without having to pay the money which was demanded of them. Thanks to this initiative, since it was launched in 2016, more than 200,000 victims of ransomware have managed to retrieve their private information.
As citizens, it can set our minds at rest that the EU has structures which help member states to fight against this type of crime which otherwise would be difficult for them to fight against on their own and using only their resources.
On the other hand, it is also important to take the necessary precautions when using the Internet and other technology. Europol encourages us to make a regular back up of our information and to install anti-virus software.
Ultimately, the most important thing is to inform the authorities immediately if one has been a target of such an attack or if they come across a case of ransomware.
Information compiled by: