White house plans to meet 30 nations on cybercrime, ransomware officials

Leading US national security advisers will bring together officials from 30 countries this month with plans to address the growing threat of ransomware and other cybercrime, President Joe Biden said Friday.

An online session hosted by the White House National Security Council is also said to aim to “improve law enforcement cooperation” on issues such as “the illicit use of cryptocurrency,” Biden said in a statement.

The Biden administration has raised the cybersecurity response to the highest levels of government after a series of attacks this year that threatened to destabilize US energy and food supplies.

Meat producer JBS SA paid $ 11 million to stop an attack on its systems that halted production, believed to have come from a criminal group with Russian connections.

Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $ 5 million to a gang of hackers believed to be based in Eastern Europe to regain access, some of which were later reclaimed by U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Both companies paid the ransom in bitcoin.

Ransom software works by encrypting victims’ data. Typically, hackers offer the victim a key in exchange for payments in cryptocurrency, which can be hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

Cybercrime Police Unit (Credit: POLICE SOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

The Biden government hopes that their new informal group, which they call the Anti-Ransomware Initiative, will step up its diplomatic push, which includes face-to-face talks with Russia as well as the NATO alliance and the Group of Seven (G7) Wealthy Nations.

The government has increasingly focused on blocking China’s so-called “malicious cyber activities” that Beijing has denied.

It was not immediately clear which countries would attend or when exactly the meeting would take place.

A White House official said they are particularly keen to address “virtual currency abuse to launder ransom payments” and intend to “investigate and prosecute ransomware criminals, many of whom are anonymous and target institutions in other countries.

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