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The White House on Wednesday kicked off a series of virtual meetings focused on tackling a barrage of ransomware attacks with representatives from more than 30 countries.
While many criminal hackers are believed to live and work in hostile countries like Russia and China, these countries have been excluded from the guest list. For this summit, one of many planned gatherings, the United States has included “like-minded nations,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said during the opening session – or as he did. said – nations that “recognize the urgency of the ransomware threat”.
The summit includes an open plenary session and six additional private panels, led by the United States, Britain, Australia, Germany and India. Other participants include Eastern European countries like Ukraine, Estonia and Romania, Middle Eastern partners like the United Arab Emirates, Latin American allies like Brazil and many more. others.
Speaking at the opening session, several international representatives agreed on a refrain now common among US national security officials: that ransomware has become a threat to national security.
General Karel Řehka, Director of the National Office for Cybersecurity and Information Security in the Czech Republic, described the ransomware attacks that impacted local critical infrastructure.
“It can no longer be seen as just criminal activity,” he concluded.
Andres Sutt, Estonian Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology, suggested that the group of countries establish clear benchmarks for expected cybersecurity spending, similar to NATO’s commitments on cybersecurity. defense spending.
Yigal Unna, director of Israel’s National Cyber Security Directorate, revealed that Israel was facing a massive ransomware attack on a major hospital.
Bring countries together to pool resources
In an interview with NPR, Anne Neuberger, Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technologies, spoke about the summit’s purpose.
“We wanted to focus on bringing together countries that were part of the fight against ransomware and each had a role to play,” Neuberger said. “Whether it’s disrupting ransomware players, disrupting the financial ecosystem, building resilience or building capacity. “
Neuberger said it was important to include such a wide range of countries because “ransomware is a very good example of a transnational threat.”
The White House has publicly pressured Russian officials to allow ransomware operators to work within their borders.
Neuberger told NPR that the White House had had “frank” conversations with senior Kremlin officials and had seen “some action” taken to address US concerns. But she added: “We are looking to see follow-up actions.”
Several of the attendees faced cybercrime within their own borders, including in Ukraine, where the FBI and international law enforcement recently arrested two members of a ransomware gang, seizing $ 375,000. cash.
While Neuberger declined to comment on future law enforcement collaborations, she told NPR that “this is exactly the kind of effort we have in mind.” She said one of the international panels would focus on “disruption”.
Regarding China, Neuberger said the White House “is looking for constructive areas in which to engage,” but the administration remains “concerned about Chinese cyber activity.”
China has been linked to numerous cyber breaches, including one known as the Hafnium cyberattack, a massive email server attack involving Microsoft Exchange. Neuberger pointed out that the Biden administration has publicly noted that “China is home to a larger ecosystem that includes some ransomware players.”