The Biden Administration outlined its ongoing efforts to counter ransomware extortion attacks.
In a fact sheet, the Administration said that $400 million in payments were made globally last year, and that $81 million was paid in the first quarter of 2021. The Administration said that it was pursuing the following four strategies for countering ransomware:
Disrupt Ransomware Infrastructure and Actors. The Administration highlighted its efforts to mobilize U.S. government capabilities, including the DOJ's establishment of a National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team and Treasury's update to its advisory on sanctions risks arising from ransomware payments.
Bolster Resilience against Ransomware. The Administration (i) called for increased cyber defense investment from the private sector, (ii) highlighted collaboration between Treasury and the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency to engage the cyber insurance sector to consider incentives to enhance cyber hygiene; and (iii) initiated an awareness effort including a joint DOJ and DHS launch of the StopRansomware.gov website;
Combat Virtual Currency Misuse. The Administration said it was leveraging and acquiring innovative tools and approaches in its anti-money laundering / countering the financing of terrorism (or "AML/CFT") enforcement efforts. The Administration also noted Treasury's work to drive standards on financial transparency related to virtual assets at the Financial Action Task Force.
Bolster International Cooperation. The Administration said it was working with international partners to disrupt ransomware networks, including the establishment of a White House / Kremlin Experts Group to act against criminal ransomware activities emanating from Russia. The Administration also emphasized the United States' commitment to eliminating related safe harbors.
The DOJ established a National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team to investigate and prosecute criminal activity involving cryptocurrency.
In an updated advisory, OFAC underscored the sanctions risks arising from ransomware payments made in response to "malicious cyber-enabled activities."
The DOJ and the Department of Homeland Security, along with other federal partners, launched a joint website to combat the threat of ransomware.
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