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U.S. Concludes Virtual Ransomware Summit With 30 Countries

The U.S. convened a two-day virtual ransomware summit with representatives from 30 countries. The conference was officially called the Counter-Ransomware Initiative. This is the White House’s latest move to curb the menace of ransomware.

However, the meeting didn’t include representatives from Russia and China. “In this first round of discussions we did not invite the Russians to participate for a host of reasons,” a senior official said earlier this week.

Speaking to The Record (via), an unnamed NSC (National Security Council) spokesperson said that the administration consciously decided not to invite China for the virtual conference.

However, there seems to be some hope for future participation by Russia with one official reportedly saying this summit doesn’t “preclude future opportunities for them to participate” in future sessions.

American and Chinese officials are likely to meet virtually later this year

The relationship between U.S. and Russia has been on a downward spiral over the past few years. Tensions rose when Russian cybercriminals were found to be responsible for the major ransomware attack against Colonial Pipeline.

President Biden later met with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Geneva Summit in June to discuss the latter’s inaction in curbing cybercriminals.

An administration official then said that the two countries are in talks about the actions expected of Russia against ransomware groups operating within its territories. “We’ve seen some steps by the Russian government and are looking to see follow-up actions,” the official said.

In September, a senior FBI official said the agency didn’t come across indications that Russia had acted against cybercriminal networks. Days later, the Treasury Department placed sanctions on a cryptocurrency exchange owned by Russian citizens. The agency said that this exchange assisted in laundering over $160 million in illegal funds to criminal and ransomware groups.

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Meanwhile, U.S. officials blamed China for a breach of the Microsoft Exchange email server software earlier this year. Hackers with ties to the Chinese government were allegedly responsible for the attacks. President Biden is likely to conduct a virtual meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping by the end of 2021. While no agenda is available, the matter of cybersecurity will likely come up.

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