Security

US-led cybersecurity coalition vows to not pay hackers’ ransom demands

Comment

a photo of a Colonial Pipeline gas storage depot in between leaves near a highway
Image Credits: Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images

The U.S. government and dozens of foreign allies have pledged never to pay ransom demands in a bid to discourage financially motivated hackers and ransomware gangs profiteering from cyberattacks.

The joint pledge was announced during the third annual meeting of the International Counter Ransomware Initiative, or CRI, a U.S.-led cyber coalition that aims to enhance international cooperation to combat the growth of ransomware. The CRI includes 48 countries, as well as the European Union and Interpol, making it the largest cyber partnership in the world.

The first-of-its-kind joint pledge, detailed by U.S. deputy national security advisor Anne Neuberger during a call with reporters on Monday, resulted in dozens of members signing a policy statement declaring that their governments would not pay ransom demands. The pledge stops short of banning companies from making ransom payments, which the U.S. government has long warned could inadvertently create opportunities for further extortion by ransomware gangs, but Neuberger says that the initiative will aim to “counter the illicit finance that underpins the ransomware ecosystem.”

Ransomware attacks remain at an all-time high given the majority of victims continue to pay ransoms which fund the hackers behind these cyberattacks. Data from blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis shows that victims paid ransomware groups $449 million in the first six months of this year. If this pace continues, the total figure for 2023 could reach almost $900 million, making 2023 the second-most profitable year for ransomware actors after 2021, according to Chainalysis.

Not all of the 48 CRI member governments have yet agreed to the anti-ransom payment pledge, Neuberger said, though it’s not yet known which governments have signed up.

“This was a really big lift, and we’re in the final throes of getting every last member to sign,” Neuberger said. “But we’re pretty much there, which is exciting.”

Full details of the joint pledge, which are still being finalized, have not yet been announced. The White House has not yet said how member states will be held accountable to their pledge, or what consequences they face, if any, if they make a ransom payment.

Ransomware and extortion gangs have targeted several governments in recent years, including Montenegro and Costa Rica, as well as U.S. government systems and critical infrastructure. In 2021, U.S. energy giant Colonial Pipeline paid $5 million to hackers who broke in and deployed ransomware. The cyberattack prompted the company to shut down its pipelines, causing major disruptions to gas supplies across the U.S. east coast.

During Monday’s call, Neuberger said that ransom payments not only fuel future attacks but also don’t guarantee the safe return of stolen data — or that all copies have been erased. Data provided to the U.S. government by ransomware negotiators shows that companies with good backups are able to recover “far more quickly” than companies that pay a ransom.

“Paying a ransom not only encourages ongoing ransomware attacks, it also is not necessarily the fastest way to recover,” said Neuberger. “Do those backups and do the basic cybersecurity practices that we know make a difference.”

The CRI on Tuesday also announced several additional measures designed to improve its members’ ability to fight back against ransomware attacks. This includes a shared denylist, which will include information on digital wallets being used to move ransomware payments and two new information-sharing platforms to help members quickly share data about ransomware operators, their tools and their techniques with their foreign allies.

“If one country is attacked, others can quickly defend against that attack,” Neuberger said on the call with reporters.

Members of the initiative will also use artificial intelligence to analyze blockchains to help identify ransomware payments flowing through cryptocurrency platforms.

Why ransomware victims can’t stop paying off hackers

More TechCrunch

Zen Educate, an online marketplace that connects schools with teachers, has raised $37 million in a Series B round of funding. The raise comes amid a growing teacher shortage crisis…

Zen Educate raises $37M and acquires Aquinas Education as it tries to address the teacher shortage

“When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine.”

Scarlett Johansson says that OpenAI approached her to use her voice

A new self-driving truck — manufactured by Volvo and loaded with autonomous vehicle tech developed by Aurora Innovation — could be on public highways as early as this summer.  The…

Aurora and Volvo unveil self-driving truck designed for a driverless future

The European venture capital firm raised its fourth fund as fund as climate tech “comes of age.”

ETF Partners raises €284M for climate startups that will be effective quickly — not 20 years down the road

Copilot, Microsoft’s brand of generative AI, will soon be far more deeply integrated into the Windows 11 experience.

Microsoft wants to make Windows an AI operating system, launches Copilot+ PCs

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. For those who haven’t heard, the first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule has been pushed back yet again to no earlier than…

TechCrunch Space: Star(side)liner

When I attended Automate in Chicago a few weeks back, multiple people thanked me for TechCrunch’s semi-regular robotics job report. It’s always edifying to get that feedback in person. While…

These 81 robotics companies are hiring

The top vehicle safety regulator in the U.S. has launched a formal probe into an April crash involving the all-electric VinFast VF8 SUV that claimed the lives of a family…

VinFast crash that killed family of four now under federal investigation

When putting a video portal in a public park in the middle of New York City, some inappropriate behavior will likely occur. The Portal, the vision of Lithuanian artist and…

NYC-Dublin real-time video portal reopens with some fixes to prevent inappropriate behavior

Longtime New York-based seed investor, Contour Venture Partners, is making progress on its latest flagship fund after lowering its target. The firm closed on $42 million, raised from 64 backers,…

Contour Venture Partners, an early investor in Datadog and Movable Ink, lowers the target for its fifth fund

Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads, and has begun hearing cases from Threads.

Meta’s Oversight Board takes its first Threads case

The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.

SeekOut, a recruiting startup last valued at $1.2 billion, lays off 30% of its workforce

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender SoLo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

2 days ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’