Cybercrime Summit: Russia excluded from 30-country meeting to combat ransomware attacks

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Russia was not invited to a US-led virtual meeting with 30 countries aimed at tackling the growing threat of ransomware and other cybercrimes, a senior administration official said. Many ransomware gangs operate from Ukraine and Russia, say private sector cybersecurity experts. Some US officials and analysts have said that Russian ransomware gangs operate with the tacit approval of the Kremlin, but are not directly controlled by the government.

The meeting will be held over two days, will have six sessions, and will cover topics such as combating the misuse of virtual currency to launder ransom payments, prosecuting ransomware criminals, using diplomacy to combat ransomware, and helping nations against them Attacks to become more resilient, administration officials said.

In addition to the United States, four countries including India, Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom will have discussions on issues such as disruption, virtual currency and diplomacy. Other participants in the meeting are Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, Ukraine, Ireland, Israel, South Africa and the European Union.

“We are having active discussions with the Russians, but they have not been invited to participate in this particular forum,” said the senior administrative official, adding that this does not preclude Russia from attending future events.

The official said the United States is engaging directly with Russia on ransomware through the US Kremlin Expert Group, led by the White House and set up by President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The official said talks with Russia were ongoing, the US had exchanged information on certain criminal actors in Russia and the country had taken first steps to address the issues raised.

President Joe Biden has raised the cybersecurity response to the highest levels of government after a series of attacks this year that threatened to destabilize US energy and food supplies.

Hackers caused fuel disruptions in the eastern United States in May when they targeted a pipeline in the Colonial Pipeline.

The Biden government hopes that their new informal group, which they call the Anti-Ransomware Initiative, will step up its diplomatic push, which includes face-to-face talks with Russia as well as the NATO alliance and the Group of Seven Wealthy Nations.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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