India takes ‘lead’ on Biden’s initiative against ransomware


The meet on tackling ransomware is a part of the Joe Biden administration’s four-part strategy to counter the scourge of ransomware, reports Asian Lite News

India, the UK, Germany and Australia have taken a “lead” role in helping the United States organise a global meeting on countering ransomware, which is a key cybersecurity initiative of US President Joe Biden. The two-day meet, which is taking place virtually, started on Wednesday.

India is leading a session on resilience, Australia on disruption, the UK on virtual currency, and Germany on diplomacy.

Lt General Rajesh Pant, the national cybersecurity coordinator, is leading the Indian delegation at the event aimed at combating ransomware.

“Many governments have been indispensable in organising the meeting, and four countries in particular have volunteered to lead and organise specific thematic discussions: India for resilience, Australia for disruption, the UK for virtual currency, and Germany for diplomacy,” a senior official of Joe Biden’s administration said while reviewing the meeting for reporters.

In all, 30 countries are participating in the meet, including Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, South Korea, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the UAE. The EU is also taking part in the event.

The meet on tackling ransomware is a part of the Joe Biden administration’s four-part strategy to counter the scourge of ransomware.

Colonial Pipeline, a major US oil distribution company, reportedly paid $4.4 million to a cybercriminal group DarkSide earlier in the year to get back control of its pipelines. And Toshiba, the Japanese electronics giant, had said the same group had hit the networks of its European division in France at the same time.

The FBI, however, recovered $2.3 million of the ransomware that was paid by Colonial in Bitcoins.

Ransomware attacks are a global menace. Ransomware payments reached over $400 million globally in 2020, the White House said in fact-sheet and topped $81 million in the first quarter of 2021, “illustrating the financially driven nature of these activities”.

Disrupting ransomware infrastructure and actors as in the Colonial Pipeline case will the first of the four-part strategy to be announced by the Biden administration. “We’re bringing the full weight of U.S. government capabilities to disrupt ransomware actors, networks, financial infrastructure, and other facilitators,” the official said and went on to cite the Colonial case as an example.

The second part of the strategy is to be bolster “resilience to withstand ransomware attacks”, addressing and fixing vulnerabilities in networks.

The third is to prevent the “abuse of virtual currency” to launder ransom payments, and the fourth is to marshal international allies and partners.

Russia excluded

Russia was not invited to attend a 30-country virtual meeting led by the United States that is aimed at combating the growing threat of ransomware and other cyber crime, a senior administration official said.

Many ransomware gangs operate from Ukraine and Russia, private sector cybersecurity experts say. Some U.S. officials and analysts have said Russian ransomware gangs operate with the Kremlin’s tacit approval, but are not directly controlled by the government.

The meeting will be held over two days, involve six sessions and include topics such as addressing the misuse of virtual currency to launder ransom payments, prosecuting ransomware criminals, using diplomacy to counter ransomware, and helping nations become more resilient to such attacks, the administration official said.

President Joe Biden has elevated the response to cybersercurity to the most senior levels of the administration following a set of attacks this year that threatened to destabilize U.S. energy and food supplies.

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