Explained: Russia’s proposal to the UN for expanding list of designated cybercrimes

With an aim to deter cyber criminals, Russia has submitted the world’s first draft convention for strengthening laws against cybercrime to the United Nations (UN). As part of this submission, Russia is seeking to expand the list of internationally designated types of cybercrimes, which is currently a relatively short one. A “Russian draft of the convention on countering the use of information and communications technologies (ICT) for criminal purposes" was officially submitted on 27 July, according to Russian news agency TASS.

The Russian delegation that submitted the draft was led by Deputy Prosecutor General Petr Gorodov, who met Dennis Thatchaichawalit, acting Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, at the United Nations Geneva Office.

What is Russia proposing?

In its proposal, Russia seeks to expand the list of internationally designated cybercrimes from the current figure of nine cybercrimes to include as many as 23 cybercrimes, reported state-owned news agency Sputnik.

The Budapest Convention - drawn up in 2001 - does not include newer types of cybercrimes. Image: Mohammed Hassan via Pixabay

Gorodov said the ‘Budapest Convention on Cybercrime of the Council of Europe’ is outdated, as it only recognises nine designated types of cybercrimes.

What are the existing designated cybercrimes?

The Budapest Convention – more commonly known as the Convention of Cybercrime – was signed in 2001 by South Africa, Canada, Japan and the US, and came into force in July 2004. It was the first international treaty designed to deal with crimes committed using the Internet and other computer networks. However, because this treaty was drawn up in the early-2000s, it only covered cybercrimes that were recognised at the time.

Nine main crimes designated by the Convention included illegal access, illegal interception, data interference, system interference, misuse of devices, computer-related forgery, computer-related fraud, offences related to child pornography and offences related to infringement of copyright and related rights.

Which cybercrimes does Russia want included?

In 2020, Russian Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov formed a group of officials to check IT crimes. It was this group that was assigned the duty of drafting a universal international convention to countering cybercrimes. This draft includes newer cybercrimes that have become rampant in recent times, including crimes relating to cryptocurrencies, counterfeit medical products, involvement of minors in illegal activities.

Russia's proposal includes cybercrimes relating to cryptocurrencies. Image: Pixabay

"The draft takes into account the present-day challenges and threats in the sphere of international information security (including criminal uses of crypto currencies), introduces new crimes committed with the use of information and communications technologies (marketing fake medical products, drug trafficking, involvement of minors into illegal activities posing threats to their lives and health, and others)”, read a statement from the Prosecutor General’s office.

The draft also seeks to boost “international cooperation concerning legal assistance on criminal cases, including tracing, arrest, seizure and the return of assets", as per the statement.

Why is it needed at this time?

The COVID-19 outbreak has majorly impacted businesses worldwide, but the business of cybercrimes is booming. With more people forced to work from home (WFH) and pursue a deeper digital integration in their lives, criminals have a bigger user base to attack and benefit from.

Cyberattacks are expected to rise further as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.

In August 2020, INTERPOL reported an ‘alarming’ rise in cyberattacks within a four-month period. It said with a higher number of individuals spending more time online, criminals were ‘taking advantage of increased security vulnerabilities to steal data, generate profits and cause disruption.’

With the virus unlikely to disappear anytime soon, INTERPOL said ‘a further increase in cybercrime is highly likely in the near future’, as vulnerabilities exposed by the WFH model and increased financial benefit will result in cybercriminals upping the ante and devising newer, more clever methods of tricking unsuspecting users.

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