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Ten things you need to know

Ten things you need to know

  • 01. On 23 January 2021, 15 sailors from a Turkish container ship, the Mozart, were kidnapped as the vessel was sailing from Lagos, Nigeria to Cape Town, South Africa. Reports are that it was attacked 160 kilometres (100 miles) off Sao Tome island in an “unusually well-coordinated effort” with the pirates boarding the ship and breaching the vessel’s citadel. One sailor, an Azerbaijani, was killed in the attack. The crew were released after 21 days in captivity, but no details of the ransom were disclosed.
  • 02. According to figures from 17 police forces, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, stalking and harassment crimes involving social media have risen tenfold in the past five years. The article in The Times on 1 January 2021 states: reports of stalking and harassment using popular social media sites rose from 1,727 in 2014 to 17,637 in 2019.
  • 03. On the 3 January a police officer was kidnapped by unidentified assailants in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The assailants reportedly demanded a US$1m ransom. Haiti has been victim to a recent surge in kidnappings according to the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH). The Haitian human rights organisation, Défenseurs Plus, claims that more than 1,000 kidnappings were recorded in 2020.
  • 04. The ruling Morena party in Mexico proposed legislation to put mobile phone users’ data into a biometric registry. It has been hailed as a means to fight kidnapping and extortion, in line with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s promise to fight crime using intelligent methods. The plan is that telecom carriers would be responsible for collecting customers’ data, including fingerprints or eye biometrics, to submit to a registry managed by Mexico’s telecoms regulator. The bill has already been approved by the lower house of Congress but has been heavily criticised by telecoms companies and rights groups who warn it could lead to stolen data and higher costs.
  • 05. An Iraqi MP, who is a dual Australian and Iraqi citizen, was the subject of a sustained “campaign of intimidation” which involved an attempt to extort US$10 million. Four people have been charged in Sydney and Canada over the extortion campaign following arrests on 24 February. Australian investigators identified social media profiles linked to users in the city of Edmonton in Canada. The attacks are believed to have started in December 2019.
  • 06. In February, US authorities charged three North Koreans for conducting cyberattacks intended to extort more than US$1.3 billion in cash and cryptocurrency from financial institutions and businesses. The trio are accused of using “multiple malicious cryptocurrency applications” and “fraudulently marketing a blockchain platform” according to a Department of Justice press release. These charges are reportedly an expansion of a case from 2018 that detailed the cyberattack on Sony Pictures and the creation of the ransomware known as WannaCry.
  • 07. Over 300 girls have been abducted from a boarding school in Jangebe town, Zamfara state, northern Nigeria on 26 February. The attack came less than two weeks after the abduction of 42 people, including 27 students, from a school in Kagara, Niger State. The risk of further attacks by armed bandit groups in the area remains high. The girls from Jangebe were released after four days in captivity; State governor Bello Matawalle claimed that no ransom was paid.
  • 08. On 9 February CD Projekt Red, the developer behind the game CyberPunk 2077, announced on Twitter that it had been hacked in a ransomware attack. The company posted a copy of the ransom note which said the hackers had copied code from Cyberpunk 2077, Gwent, and Witcher 3. The criminals claim to have stolen source code for the games which they threatened to leak unless a payment was made. They also threatened to send the company's internal documents to their "contacts in gaming journalism". The Polish games company said it would not negotiate and has informed law enforcement and data protection authorities, while it investigates.
  • 09. On 9 January two Egyptians, a naval officer and marine engineer were released and returned to Egypt. They were among the crew of a cargo ship that was hijacked off the southern coast of Nigeria on 26 November 2020. The Egyptian embassy in Abuja reportedly coordinated the rescue negotiations. The identity of the kidnappers is unknown and no details of any ransom payments were given.
  • 10. Aircraft maker Bombardier, the Canadian-based firm, announced that it was subject to a security breach after some of its data was published on the dark web in February. The attackers allegedly accessed files that contained information on employees, suppliers and customers. Bombardier has not disclosed the attackers’ demands.

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