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White House convenes international summit to thwart ransomware threats

The White House is hosting a two-day International Counter Ransomware Summit to thwart the threat of ransomware attacks. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI
The White House is hosting a two-day International Counter Ransomware Summit to thwart the threat of ransomware attacks. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 31 (UPI) -- The White House is hosting its second annual summit, involving dozens of countries and tech companies, to thwart the threat of ransomware attacks.

The two-day International Counter Ransomware Summit, on Monday and Tuesday, involves 36 countries including Canada, Singapore, Ukraine and Britain, as well as big tech firms such as Microsoft, Siemens and Mandiant.

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"Ransomware is an issue that knows no borders and affects each of the Counter Ransomware Initiative countries -- our businesses, our critical infrastructure and our citizens -- and it's only getting more challenging," a senior Biden administration official said before the conference in Washington, D.C.

The summit includes briefings from FBI Director Christopher Wray, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo.

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"This is really a global problem. We're seeing the pace and the sophistication of the ransomware attacks increase faster than our resilience and disruption efforts," the White House official said.

The international ransomware summit was held for the first time last year as the Biden administration worked to shore up the nation's cybersecurity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Since then, there has been an uptick in ransomware attacks involving demands for millions of dollars to keep information private. Over the last 18 months, there have been 4,000 cyberattacks in countries around the world, according to the White House.

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A major U.S. hospital network, CommonSpirit, is currently recovering from a ransomware attack that severed some health providers' access to electronic health records.

A separate ransomware attack last month stole private information from the computer systems at the Los Angeles Unified School District.

And in January, before cybercrime cooperation between the U.S. and Russia ended with Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, Russian authorities arrested a ransomware suspect accused in last year's cyberattack on a major U.S. fuel pipeline operator.

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This year's summit, which will not include Moscow, will focus on how to keep ransomware gangs from finding refuge in certain countries, including Russia, with the goal of making "it harder, costlier and riskier for ransomware actors to operate," the White House said.

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