US agencies announce initiatives to crack down on ransomware

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The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said Friday it plans to convene a joint ransomware task force, while the Justice Department announced it is launching two international initiatives aimed at tracking illegal cryptocurrency transfers. and to disrupt “upper tier” cyber actors.

The announcements were made by senior government officials at an Institute for Security and Technology event to mark the first anniversary of the Ransomware Task Force – a public-private initiative that brought together dozens of law enforcement experts. law enforcement, cybersecurity companies and civil society organizations. The event included speeches and comments from National Director of Cybersecurity Chris Inglis, current and former directors of CISA, and Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco, highlighting how ransomware has become a top priority in government.

CISA Director Jen Easterly said the joint ransomware task force, which was set out in the Cyber ​​Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act of 2022 (CIRCIA), would be led by Eric Goldstein, executive deputy director. of CISA for Cybersecurity, and Bryan Vorndran, Deputy Director. of the FBI’s Cyber ​​Division. CIRCIA became law in March as part of the Omnibus Spending Bill.

“Given the content of this legislation and what the task force is supposed to do – there is a lot of disruption from ransomware actors [including] infrastructure, finance — I thought it was really important that the FBI co-chairs,” Easterly said, adding that the group will hold its first formal meeting in the coming months. “It is very likely that the industry will see a cyberattack on the national territory before we see it. … We have to be in the same room, we have to trust each other.

The Department of Justice is also rolling out two initiatives that would help disrupt ransomware actors and confiscate their funds. An international virtual currency initiative will crack down on illegal cryptocurrency transactions, Monaco said.

“This initiative will enable more joint international law enforcement operations, more eyes from multiple law enforcement agencies around the world to track money through blockchain,” Monaco said. “It will also hopefully promote responsible regulation and anti-money laundering requirements to stamp out the misuse of these technologies.”

In addition, the DOJ will create a new International Cyber ​​Operations Liaison position to work with U.S. prosecutors and European law enforcement officials to “accelerate the pace of international operations against high-profile cyber actors, including arrests, extraditions, asset seizures and collaboration to dismantle infrastructure”. “, said Monaco.

These initiatives are the latest steps taken by the government to combat the resurgence of ransomware, which has become a major cybersecurity concern for healthcare organizations, businesses, schools and a wide range of other organizations. Of the 48 recommendations made by the Ransomware Task Force in its report last year, 12 saw progress while action was taken on 29 others.

But ransomware actors continue to up the ante – in recent weeks, groups have hit universities, media giants and even threatened to “overthrow” the Costa Rican government if a $20 million ransom demand was not paid.

Adam is the founding editor of The Record by Recorded Future. He was previously a cybersecurity and privacy reporter for Protocol, and before that, he covered cybersecurity, AI, and other emerging technologies for the Wall Street Journal.

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