Dozens of countries will pledge to stop paying ransomware gangs

An alliance of 40 countries will sign a pledge during the third annual International Counter-Ransomware Initiative summit in Washington, D.C., to stop paying ransoms demanded by cybercriminal groups.

Addressing reporters on Monday, Anne Neuberger, the White House’s Deputy National Security Adviser for Cyber and Emerging Technology, implied this initiative is in response to record ransomware risks worldwide, with the U.S. being the target of approximately 46% of these incidents.

Starting Wednesday, international discussions during the summit will also focus on strategies to block the funds used by ransomware groups to finance their operations, Reuters first reported.

“Ransomware is an issue that knows no borders. And as long as there’s money flowing to ransomware criminals … the problem will continue to grow,” Neuberger told reporters on Monday.

“We want to take a push at the cause of the ransomware, which is the financing of it, and do that together. This was a really big lift, and we’re still in the final throes of getting every last member to sign, but we’re pretty much there, which is exciting,” a senior administration official added while answering questions regarding the anti-ransomware group’s work, according to The Messenger.

While representatives from 48 countries, the European Union, and Interpol will attend this week’s Counter-Ransomware Initiative summit, not all have confirmed that they will sign this week’s anti-ransomware statement, according to Neuberger.

Ransomware records

Ransomware incidents surged in September, following an elevated but comparatively quieter period in August, which still exceeded typical summer figures.

Data from NCC Group revealed a total of 514 ransomware attacks in September, surpassing March 2023’s record of 459 incidents after a wave of Clop’s Fortra GoAnywhere data theft attacks.

Geographically, North America experienced most of these attacks at 50%, followed by Europe at 30%, and Asia ranked third with 9%.

During the last two years, multiple governments were severely affected after ransomware attacks hit critical infrastructure and government entities, including MontenegroChile, and Bermuda, with Costa Rica forced to declare a national emergency after the May 2022 Conti ransomware attacks.

The White House National Security Council facilitated the first Counter-Ransomware Initiative summit in October 2021, when 31 countries vowed to increase efforts toward disrupting ransomware groups’ abuse of cryptocurrency after ransomware payments reached almost $500 million in just two years ($400 million in 2020 and over $80 million in Q1 2021).

The same month, The U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) linked roughly $5.2 billion of outgoing Bitcoin transactions to ransomware-related payments.

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