The UN disarmament chief says the Covid-19 pandemic is moving the world toward increased technological innovation and online collaboration, but "cybercrime is also on the rise, with a 600 per cent increase in malicious emails during the current crisis."
Izumi Nakamitsu told an informal meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday that "there have also been worrying reports of attacks against health care organizations and medical research facilities worldwide."
She said growing digital dependency has increased the vulnerability to cyberattacks, and "it is estimated that one such attack takes place every 39 seconds."
According to the International Telecommunication Union, "nearly 90 countries are still only at the early stages of making commitments to cybersecurity," Nakamitsu said.
The high representative for disarmament affairs said the threat from misusing information and communications technology "is urgent." But she said there is also good news, pointing to some global progress at the United Nations to address the threats as a result of the development of norms for the use of such technology.
Estonia's Prime Minister Juri Ratas, whose country holds the Security Council presidency and organized Friday's meeting on cyber stability and advancing responsible government behavior in cyberspace, said "the Covid-19 crisis has put extra pressure on our critical services in terms of cybersecurity."
He said the need for "a secure and functioning cyberspace" is therefore more pressing than ever and he condemned cyberattacks targeting hospitals, medical research facilities and other infrastructure, especially during the pandemic.
"Those attacks are unacceptable," Ratas said. "It will be important to hold the offenders responsible for their behavior."
The United Nations says there have been 75 cases of Covid-19 in the UN's 13 far-flung peacekeeping missions, which have a total of 110,000 troops, police and personnel.
UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix told a group of reporters Friday that preventive measures taken early on in the coronavirus crisis appear to have prevented the spread of the virus, with the exception of conflict-torn Mali, where 58 cases were reported. He said there have been no deaths and none of the cases have been serious.
The UN peacekeeping department said there were 10 cases of COVID-19 in the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, three cases in the Cyprus mission, two in Central African Republic, and one each in Lebanon and the UN Truce Supervision Organization, which was established in 1948 to help supervise a truce after the Arab-Israeli war following the breakup of Palestine into two states.
Because of the pandemic, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres suspended the rotation of peacekeepers and international police until June 30 but Lacroix said he expects some easing starting in July. He hopes to finalize guidance for "what we call extraordinary transitional measures" in the coming days, which will allow the partial resumption of the rotation of uniformed personnel.