Ransomware is a form of digital malware that surreptitiously enters a computer system, enabling its implementer, the attacker, to threaten to publish sensitive data or to permanently block access to the computer system, unless a ransom is paid. Some malware may encrypt the victim's files, making them inaccessible, and then extorting payment to decrypt them.
“It is a truly global threat,” said Anne Neuberger, Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technologies. “Ransomware is the most disruptive cyber threat at this moment in time, disrupting the operations of hospitals, putting students’ data publicly online, sensitive kids’ data, disrupting companies in almost every sector of economies around the world.”
That is why two years ago, the United States created the International Counter-Ransomware Initiative, a global coalition of over 50 countries and entities who work together to combat this ever-growing threat. In early November, coalition members met at the White House for the 2023 International Counter Ransomware Initiative Summit.
“The Counter Ransomware Initiative is the largest cyber partnership in the world. It's also one that covers both policy and operations, the key things we need to tackle together for impact,” said Deputy National Security Advisor Neuberger. “This year's gathering focused on three things. First, developing capabilities to disrupt attackers and the infrastructure they use to conduct their attacks. Second, improving cyber security through sharing information. And finally, fighting back against ransomware actors.”
The most significant development that emerged from this year’s convocation was the signing by at least 40 member countries, of a pledge to never pay ransoms to cybercriminals. “As long as there is money flowing to ransomware criminals, this is a problem that will continue to grow," said Anne Neuberger.
“That is the first ever collective statement that the CRI member governments will not pay ransoms. So, CRI members from India to Egypt to Costa Rica to Nigeria, Singapore and the United States, our governments made that commitment because we recognize that ransomware payments are the money that's fueling the ongoing attacks,” she said.
“[Ransomware is] the very definition of a transnational threat. Attackers in one set of countries using infrastructure and another set of countries to attack victims all around the world,” said Deputy National Security Advisor Neuberger. “This is a problem that takes government and private sector working together.”