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Washington to host international meeting on ransomware

The White House will host officials from 37 countries and 13 global companies in Washington this week to address the growing threat of ransomware and other cyber crime, including the illicit use of cryptocurrencies, a senior US official said.

The in-person meeting follows last year's virtual inaugural meeting of the informal Counter-Ransomware Initiative, adding seven more countries and bringing in a diverse group of private sector players for the first time.

The White House hopes the meeting will allow participating countries to "institute a set of cyber norms that are recognized across the globe to counter criminal ransomware threats and hold malicious actors accountable," the official said.

Participants plan to issue a joint statement at the end of the meeting on Tuesday, including a pledge to redouble efforts to bring pressure on Russia and other countries that harbor ransomware attackers, the official said.

One key topic for discussion will be how to disrupt such attacks, counter the illicit movement of cryptocurrencies and build resilience against such attacks, the official said.

"So less about Russia, more about how we as a set of countries make it harder, costlier, riskier for ransom actors to operate," the official said.

Ransomware attacks have increased sharply in recent years, with over 4,000 attacks reported outside the United States over the last 18 months alone, the official said, adding that there had also been progress in arresting attackers.

Ransom software works by encrypting victims' data, with hackers offering the victim a key in return for cryptocurrency payments that can run as high as millions of dollars.

Top administration officials, including FBI Director Chris Wray, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will address the meeting.

Countries participating in addition to the United States include: Australia, Austria, Belgium Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, European Commission, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway Poland, South Korea, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and Britain.

Russia, Belarus and other countries believed to harbor attackers will not participate.

Companies participating include Crowdstrike, Mandiant, Cyber Threat Alliance, Microsoft, Cybersecurity Coalition, Palo Alto, Flexxon, SAP, Institute for Security + Technology, Siemens, Internet 2.0, Tata – TCS, and Telefonica, the White House said.

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