International Effort To Reduce Ransomware Attacks

The US Government is putting together a 30-country meeting this October to try improve the global response to ransomware attacks that directly affect economic and national security, following a recent statement from President Biden. The goal of the alliance will be "to accelerate our cooperation in combating cyber crime, improving law enforcement collaboration, stemming the illicit use of crypto-currency, and engaging on these issues diplomatically."

The announcement follows a series of ransomware attacks on US critical infrastructure firms in recent months, including one that forced major US fuel supplier Colonial Pipeline to shut down for days.

Ransomware is a type of malware where one party threatens to publish or block access to the victim’s data unless they receive a ransom. Some ransomware attacks can be easily undone by an IT professional. But cryptovirology is much harder to reverse as it involves encrypting the victim’s data. Without a decryption key, the data may be lost.

Ransomware can pose a hefty danger to global cyber security as it scrambles the target organisation's data with encryption. The criminals leave instructions on infected computers for negotiating ransom payments. Once paid, they provide decryption keys for unlocking those files. 

"Cyber threats affect the lives and livelihoods of American families and businesses," national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement to CNN. Sullivan said the administration would "continue to build on our whole-of-government effort to deter and disrupt cyber attacks." An online session hosted by the White House National Security Council will also be aimed at "improving law enforcement collaboration" on issues like "the illicit use of crypto currency," Biden said in a statement.

The first meeting of the multilateral initiative will be held virtually. It's part of a recurring effort to cut off revenue for ransomware groups and figure out ways to prosecute them, according to the White House. In bolstering US cyber security, "the Federal government needs the partnership of every American and every American company in these efforts," Biden added. 

Recently Biden asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to crack down on cyber criminals operating from Russian soil, but many US officials are skeptical of Moscow's willingness to do so. After a brief period of quiet from some ransomware groups following the Biden-Putin meeting, hackers have claimed multiple US companies as victims in recent weeks. 

US officials have looked for ways to slow down the cyber criminals that do not rely on Russian government cooperation. The Treasury Department last month imposed sanctions on a crypto-currency exchange that US officials accused of doing business with hackers behind eight types of ransomware. One White House official said they are particularly eager to address "the misuse of virtual currency to launder ransom payments" and intend to "investigate and prosecute ransomware criminals," many who are anonymous and attack institutions in other countries.

Reuters:      Bloomberg:     Fox:       CNN:      Republic World

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