The first-ever global meet on counter ransomware initiative, attended by 30 countries including India, on Thursday called for an urgent action, common priorities and complementary efforts to reduce the risk of growing threat in the cyber domain.
China and Russia did not participate in the two-day virtual meeting hosted by the White House.
In a joint statement at the conclusion of the meeting, the 30 countries recognise that ransomware is an escalating global security threat with serious economic and security consequences.
India, which played a key role in this, led the discussions on resilience as for the first time ever, the White House brought together over 30 countries from across the world to recognise the transnational threat from ransomware and to identify priorities to counter ransomware.
Countries discussed opportunities to maximise national efforts, including those to improve network resilience, address the abuse of financial mechanisms to launder ransom payments or conduct other activities that make ransomware profitable, disrupt the ransomware ecosystem via law enforcement collaboration to investigate and prosecute ransomware actors and address safe havens for ransomware criminals.
In his remarks, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that no one country can do this alone — ransomware criminal activity is transnational in nature, and requires international cooperation.
The Biden administration looks forward to future engagements and collaboration with these and other countries, as they expand and accelerate cooperation on this important topic, the White House said.
Participating nations recognised the importance of international cooperation to address the transnational threat from ransomware, with many noting that the scope, scale and severity of ransomware incidents have risen in recent years in such a way that ransomware merits consideration as a national security risk.
The meeting brought together experts that operate in parallel channels like law enforcement, cyber resilience, financial regulators who work to counter money laundering.
All of these channels are relevant to disrupting the ransomware ecosystem, and the global community brought them together for the first time in a frank exchange, an official said.
Over 30 countries acknowledged that uneven implementation of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) guidance is uneven, and problematic criminals take advantage of uneven implementation of Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes to virtual currencies to launder their proceeds of crime.
The participating countries pledged to enhance efforts together to disrupt the ransomware business model and associated money-laundering activities, including through ensuring national AML frameworks effectively, identify and mitigate risks associated with Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASPs) and related activities.
“Taking action to disrupt the ransomware business model requires concerted efforts to address illicit finance risks posed by all value transfer systems, including virtual assets, the primary instrument criminals use for ransomware payments and subsequent money laundering, the joint statement said.
Over two days, the participating countries repeatedly noted the value of cooperation among international partners to enhance the exchange of information.
With regard to information sharing, several nations pointed to opportunities to automate certain information exchange so all receive it in real time.
As ransomware criminals repeat their activities, more robust and real-time communication across governments can not only enhance national capacities to mitigate the impacts of a ransomware incident, but potentially warn countries with enough time to prevent some of them, it said.
Countries also recognised the value of providing assistance to one another to combat ransomware activity, with one country pointing to a regional cybersecurity center established to provide such assistance on request, the White House said.
Participating countries said that they will leverage diplomacy through coordination of action in response to states whenever they do not address the activities of cybercriminals.
According to experts, ransomware is one of the key cybersecurity threats of 2021.