May 27, 2024

An Alliance of 40+ Countries To Vow Not to Pay Ransomware

With the International Counter Ransomware Initiative (CRI) summit underway in Washington DC, US officials are close to securing an agreement between as many as 50 countries to not relent to ransomware demands. According to a senior US official, at least 40 countries attending the summit plan to sign the pledge.

The move is aimed at eliminating one of the biggest funding mechanisms for hackers. There has been a significant uptick in ransomware attacks around the world as cybercriminals continue to extort large sums of money from both government and private organizations as ransom.

The “No Random Payments” Pledge a Major Focus for the CRI Summit

Getting the alliance of 40+ countries to sign the agreement on not paying ransom to cybercriminals is one of the three key focus areas at the ongoing summit.

The stipulations of the agreement do not apply to private businesses.

The US-led conference is currently in its third year and now includes 48 member governments, as well as the EU and Interpol. A senior administration officer revealed that the US officials are quite close to getting all its member states to sign the pledge.

Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technologies to the Biden government, presented the “first-ever joint Counter Ransomware Initiative policy statement declaring that member governments will not pay ransoms” as a means to fight back against cybercriminals.

The pact would prevent member governments, along with their agencies and departments, from paying ransom.

The summit will also be covering “launching capabilities”, which include a project to analyze the Blockchain using AI to help identify illegal fund flows that might be funding ransomware criminals.

In other words, this would help governments track, identify, and apprehend extortionists by tracking cryptocurrency ransom payments.

The other area of focus at the summit is an effort to increase the information-sharing capabilities of the member governments through dedicated platforms. This would enable countries to exchange threat indicators swiftly following ransomware attacks.

Why Is the US So Focused on the No Ransom Payments Pledge? 

The United States’ strong focus on countering ransomware criminals by refusing to relent to their demands is perfectly understandable, considering the country’s history of ransomware attacks.

An attack on Minneapolis Public Schools in February resulted in the sensitive data of more than 30,000 students being leaked to the dark web.

As revealed by Anne Neuberger during a virtual press conference, the US is by far the biggest target of ransomware criminals. She went on to add that 46% of the ransomware attacks worldwide were carried out against individuals based in the US.

Two major US companies suffered high-profile ransomware attacks in the last two months – cleaning products maker Clorox and casino operator MGM Resorts International. Both companies are yet to recover completely from the disruptions caused by the attacks.

Ransomware criminals have also been wreaking havoc outside of the US. Costa Rica suffered a wave of ransomware attacks in January. The country’s president, Rodrigo Chaves, revealed in August that following his refusal to pay a ransom of $20 million, hackers devastated the North American nation with an onslaught of attacks.

While a majority of the CRI member states will likely pledge not to pay ransom, it remains to be seen how effective the agreement would be in the face of such persistent attacks.

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