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Between Wednesday and Thursday, the Biden administration is holding virtual meetings with ministers and senior officials from over 30 countries and the European Union to discuss combating ransomware attacks.
According to administration officials, the two-day summit is the first of many meetings and conversations. Dubbed the Counter-Ransomware Initiative, the talks will address using virtual currency to launder ransom payments, efforts to disrupt and prosecute ransomware criminals, and using diplomacy to counter those attacks.
One notable absence was Russia, who was not invited. White House officials do plan to have active direct conversations with Russia on the subject, officials say. The administration has held direct exchanges with Moscow on ransomware attacks, and shared information on related criminal activity being conducted from its territory.
Senior administration officials say they’ve seen some steps by the Russian government, and are looking to see follow-up actions.
Leveraging international cooperation is part of the White House’s strategy to guard against ransomware attacks. The meetings come after the U.S. Treasury sanctioned Russian cryptocurrency exchange Suex, after analysis of known SUEX transactions showed that over 40% of the exchange’s known transaction history was associated with illegal actors.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned more sanctions should be expected as the U.S. looks to crack down on malicious actors.
The administration's meetings are part of a broad push against the illicit use of crypto and emerging technologies. Last week, the Department of Justice announced it formed a new unit — the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team — to clamp down on criminal activity using cryptocurrency. The task force will investigate and prosecute crimes such as money laundering, and the use of digital currencies like bitcoin in ransomware attacks.
Meanwhile, the TSA is also now mandating cybersecurity across pipelines and other transportation networks. Also, the White House has called on the private sector to step up investment in cybersecurity to ensure the resilience of their networks.
The government will continue to look for other crypto exchanges or components of the digital asset ecosystem that are being manipulated by bad actors, as well as consider other actions that can be taken to deter attacks.
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