Forty countries are expected to sign a pledge today to never pay a ransom demand to cybercriminals again. The signing should take place during the third annual International Counter-Ransomware Initiative (CRI) summit, which kicked off earlier this week in Washington, D.C.
The move comes as a direct response to the recent wave of record-breaking ransomware activity, according to the Biden Administration's Deputy National Security Adviser for Cyber and Emerging Technology, Anne Neuberger.
"Ransomware is an issue that knows no borders. And as long as there's money flowing to ransomware criminals … the problem will continue to grow," Neuberger told reporters on Monday.
Almost half (46%) of all ransomware incidents target U.S. businesses, Neuberger added.
Representatives from 48 countries will attend the Initiative, together with those of the European Union and Interpol. However, not all of them will be signing the pledge, it was said.
Furthermore, the partners are expected to discuss strategies regarding blocking the funds with which the criminals finance their operations.
"We want to take a push at the cause of the ransomware, which is the financing of it, and do that together. This was a really big lift, and we're still in the final throes of getting every last member to sign, but we're pretty much there, which is exciting," a senior administration official said.
Ransomware is currently one of the biggest cyber threats facing both the private and public sectors. When targeting critical infrastructure operators, it can disrupt key operations in the physical world, such as the distribution of oil and gas, as we’ve seen with the Colonial Pipeline incident. It can also potentially result in death if the attackers encrypt key systems in a hospital or similar healthcare organization.
Ransomware operators usually steal sensitive data and encrypt endpoints, threatening to release the data on the internet unless a payment in cryptocurrency is made.
More recently, some threat actors are not even bothering to encrypt the data they've stolen, but instead merely threaten to sell or expose it, hoping that this alone will give them enough leverage to demand high ransoms.
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Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.