The U.S. government is taking a stand against the growing threat of ransomware attacks by urging other countries to commit to not making ransom payments to hackers.
The move comes ahead of an annual meeting in Washington, D.C., of over 45 nations amid a growing concern of ransomware attacks and their impact on individuals, businesses and national security.
Deputy National Security Adviser Anne Neuberger expressed optimism about garnering support for a joint statement against ransom payments. However, she acknowledged that it was a “hard policy decision.”
By encouraging nations to commit to this stance, the U.S. aims to create a united front against ransomware attacks, emphasizing the importance of not rewarding cybercriminals for their actions.
Ransomware attacks have become increasingly prevalent, targeting both individuals and organizations across the globe. These attacks involve malicious actors infiltrating computer systems, encrypting data and demanding a ransom in exchange for the decryption key. The financial burden and potential loss of sensitive information resulting from these attacks have made them a significant concern for governments and businesses alike.
While paying the ransom may seem like a quick solution to regain access to critical data, it perpetuates the cycle of cybercrime. Moreover, there is no guarantee that paying the ransom will result in the safe return of encrypted data.
Ransomware attacks often transcend national borders. A string of ransomware incidents in Europe earlier this year has highlighted the evolving nature of these attacks, with criminal organizations targeting major companies, including the British postal system, the French justice department and the German pension manager Heubeck AG.
However, fewer companies are giving in to hackers’ demands. According to a January report by blockchain analytics company Chainalysis, ransomware payments have decreased. In 2022, attackers extorted at least $456.8 million from victims, down from $765.6 million the previous year. The data suggests that fewer victims are paying the ransom, with only 41% of ransomware victims paying out in 2022, compared to 76% in 2019.
The cross-border nature of these attacks make international collaboration important for combating this threat effectively. By encouraging other countries to join the cause, the U.S. government aims to establish a global norm against ransom payments. This collective effort will not only discourage cybercriminals but also facilitate information sharing, intelligence cooperation, and the development of effective countermeasures.