The Biden administration plans to meet with officials from dozens of countries later this month in an effort to better coordinate a crackdown on cybercriminal gangs—particularly ransomware.
“This month, the United States will bring together 30 countries to accelerate our cooperation in combatting cybercrime, improving law enforcement collaboration, stemming the illicit use of cryptocurrency, and engaging on these issues diplomatically,” the president said in a statement published Friday. Biden further stated that the U.S. was “partnering closely with nations around the world” on the issue, including G7 and NATO allies, and that his administration was committed to “bringing the full strength of our capabilities to disrupt malicious cyber activity.”
It is unclear which countries will be involved in the upcoming meeting or when it will take place, though CNN reports that it will be part of a “recurring effort.” The first meeting, which will be hosted by the White House National Security Council, will take place virtually, the outlet says.
The opportunity for foreign leaders to have such a summit is a promising development since experts have long suggested that effectively combatting cybercrime requires international coordination. For much of the history of ransomware attacks, criminals have largely remained beyond the reach of prosecution—not merely because such crimes can be committed behind a veil of online anonymity, but because the hackers are almost always located in different countries than their victims. As a result, identifying, finding, and extraditing criminals can require an immense amount of international coordination.
However, the degree to which cybercrime has escalated in recent years may now be forcing leaders to develop solutions to these long-held difficulties. After a torrent of cyberattacks earlier this year, the Biden administration has made combatting ransomware a central fixture of its agenda, announcing a bevy of new programs and partnerships to address the threat. This has included a new task force at the Justice Department, meetings with the private sector, an executive order, and new punishments from the Treasury Department aimed at crypto exchanges that act as safe harbors for criminals.
In the wake of Friday’s announcement, a White House official told Reuters that the administration was eager to target “the misuse of virtual currency to launder ransom payments” and that they plan to “investigate and prosecute ransomware criminals” in the future.