A senior White House official announced on Tuesday that 50 countries plan to sign a pledge to never pay ransoms to cybercriminals in an effort to put a squeeze on their resources.
The International Counter Ransomware Initiative has been formed at a time when ransomware attacks are at a global high, almost half of which (46%) happen in the United States.
How Will the Alliance Work?
In ransomware attacks, hackers encrypt an organization's systems and demand ransom payments in exchange for unlocking them. Often, they also steal sensitive data and use it to extort victims and leak it online if the payments are not made.
They often use this stolen information to wage attacks against companies in other countries, which is why it’s so important for countries to work together if they want to stand a chance of stopping these hackers.
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The 50 countries of the alliance include Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Estonia, the European Union, France, Germany, Greece, India, INTERPOL, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, the Republic of Korea, Romania, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uruguay. They are also joined by the Interpol and the European Union according to the White House official.
The guiding principle of the alliance is that, without ransom payments, these cybercriminals will not be able to operate as effectively. Two information-sharing platforms will be created, one by Lithuania and another jointly by Israel and the UAE.
How Big Is the Problem?
There have been many examples of high-profile hacks in recent years. According to the data platform Statista, 493 million ransomware attack attempts were detected by organizations last year, amounting to $449.1 million in crypto payments to ransomware attackers in the first half of 2023. This number is up $175.8 million from the same period last year, according to Chainalysis, an American blockchain analysis company.
If this continues, ransomware attackers will have their second-best year on record, the analysts added.
“As long as there is money flowing to ransomware criminals, this is a problem that will continue to grow,” Anne Neuberger, U.S. deputy national security adviser
According to cybercrime statistics gathered by Tech.co, the average ransomware attacker demands $1.5 million in 2023. However, over 80% of those who pay a ransom will be retargeted in another attack.
How Can Companies Protect themselves
Ransomware attacks start with a simple email 69% of the time and most often target companies who are easy targets and have not sufficiently shored up their security.
Ransomware attacks can have a devastating impact on businesses. In 40% of cases, companies who suffer a ransomware attack will lay off employees as a result.
While threats are rising and becoming much harder to defend against, the worst thing you can do is nothing. Here are some tips for protecting you company:
- Invest in cybersecurity like the rest of your business.
- Secure hardware.
- Encrypt data.
- Train employees in cybersecurity best practices.
- Use anti-malware and efficient firewalls.
- Keep operating systems and software updated.
- Test backups and security systems regularly.
- Use third-party vendors with high security standards.
- Consider cybersecurity insurance.
- Don’t ignore the early signs of a hack.