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US Warns Ransomware Attacks Are Outpacing Ability to Stop Them

The International Counter Ransomware Summit will tackle the pernicious rise of one of the most challenging cybersecurity threats.

(Bloomberg) -- The pace and sophistication of ransomware attacks is increasing faster than the US’s ability keep up with efforts to disrupt and recover from them, a senior Biden administration official said Sunday.

In the face of continued attacks against governments and the private sector, the US is hosting the International Counter Ransomware Summit that begins Monday. The summit brings together nearly three dozen countries to tackle the pernicious rise of one of the most challenging cybersecurity threats, which can paralyze hospitals and shut down major gas pipelines.

Firms like CrowdStrike Holdings Inc., Mandiant Inc. and Microsoft Corp. will also be participating in the summit, the White House said. Those companies have long had visibility into the scope of cyberattacks, and some are involved in responding to incidents when companies or governments are attacked.

The US is continuing to work on severing illicit payment methods that make ransomware financially viable, namely through cryptocurrency, said the White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Pointing to a spike in attacks when Bitcoin became more widely used, the official called the threat borderless.  

In March, President Joe Biden signed sweeping cybersecurity legislation that mandates certain sectors report breaches to the US Department of Homeland Security within 72 hours of discovery of the incident, and 24 hours if they make a ransomware payment. Many states also require companies to report breaches.

Still, ransomware actors have appeared to widen their targets and continue to release private troves of data if their demands aren’t met. That includes an attack this fall on the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest, in which confidential information about students was leaked when the ransom wasn’t paid. 

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