More Stringent Email Policies

The two major reasons for the preference of email over surface mailing -security and convenience - now appear to be facing a big blow. The email system is becoming increasingly vulnerable to phishing, spamming, and confidence tricks as typified during the pandemic, resulting in the high rate of business email compromises (BEC) recorded. This raises trust issues over the ability of the current email security architecture to withstand the pressure of constantly being exploited by spammers as malware distribution agent.

The current state of the email system does not indicate the capability to cope with the projected sophistication of future cyberattacks and the situation is not likely to decline, especially given the evolution of emerging big data and internet of things (loT) concepts.

The email system is chronically susceptible to social engineering campaigns that characterized many of the COVID-19 incidents, in addition to its proneness to misconfigurations [8] and internal vulnerabilities. Such hiccups require a review of its current design and implementation modalities.

Proposed Design Model for Email Security Re-engineering

A novel combination of technical and administrative countermeasures is required to redefine existing email protocols and redesign email systems to respond more intuitively to suspicious patterns indicative of attack profile.

An Al-based predictive analytics engine is recommended to be embedded in the simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP) to proactively scan for suspicious patterns (updated from the email vulnerability database) as a routine operational procedure. The redesigned architecture should offer a variety of automated suggestions to the user on optional action(s) to support decision to open or ignore a flagged email message. This should be integrated alongside the email filtering capabilities to optimize security and reduce false negatives.

Implementation Strategy for Email Security Re-engineering

The optimized implementation of the email security frameworks should be made extensible and dynamic to accommodate intuitive features for automated actions during occasions of sudden flood of hostile messages such as seen in the BEC of COVID-19. The long-term implementation strategy would require a three-prong approach comprising of the following:

  • • Collation of inputs and aggregation of user comments on email re-engineering.
  • • Industry commitment to shift to a more secure and robust email system.
  • • Multi-sectoral risk analysis to simulate potential impacts of implementing an optimized system.

Punishment for Malware-related Offences

There does not seem to be enough criminal deterrent measures against ransomware and other destructive malware attacks, and this loophole emboldens perpetrators. As a result, the risk vs. reward balance always tilts in favour of the criminals. According to the Crowdstrike’s 2020 Global Threat Report [9], this merciless ransomware epidemic will continue and is likely to worsen, as long as the practice remains lucrative, and relatively easy and risk-free.

While country and regional laws define cybercrimes to suite their geo-cultural sensitivities and to complement enforcement boundaries, global legislations and treaties seem to be clueless and vague on dealing with ransomware offenders. This might be because of its abstract mode of perpetration or the difficulty in establishing culpability via evidence-based detection of attacker’s identity.

There is a huge stigma associated with paying ransoms [10], in addition to tax deduction crises. Besides, it also fuels the cybercrime industry and could encourage future attacks. Since the taking of money [11], in this case ransom money, or property through fraud, misrepresentation, or coercion is regarded as theft so long as it is illegal under state or local laws, suggested remedies for punishing ransomware offender should include the following:

  • • Optimized technological capabilities for tracking ransom payments and apprehending suspected criminals that are linked to initiation and receipt of such payments.
  • • Adoption of more stringent penalties for convicted offenders.
  • • Classification of intentional cyberattacks on critical infrastructure as acts of terrorism.
  • • Other variants could treat physical harm or death arising from cyberattacks as assault, attempted murder, and invoke murder-related charges as appropriate.

Ultimately, the most impactful method to stop ransomware is to refrain from paying the ransoms [12], thereby making the business unprofitable and unattractive. In addition, it is the responsibility of the organization to safeguard critical elements of its digital life, so carting out a routine backup of the most valuable information should be made a mandatory aspect of the post-COVID-19 digital ethics.

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