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National cyber security centre join forces with international teams to fight ransomware hackers

The meeting in the White House in Washington DC was attended by the States cyber security officials.

IRELAND HAS JOINED an international task force during a summit at the White House on countering online hackers.

The meeting, in Washington DC, took place this week and saw Richard Browne, the Director of the NCSC, and other officials went to the US capital to meet with the Counter Ransomware Initiative. 

A Ransomware attack was the type of hack which caused the HSE cyber crisis. 

The primary goal of the meeting was to establish an international Ransomware Taskforce which includes Ireland. 

A spokesperson from the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications said that the NCSC also met with various US agencies tasked with countering cyber threats during the visit.

“The Counter Ransomware Initiative (CRI) is an international coalition of countries (and the EU) that is working together to develop concrete measures to defeat ransomware operators.

“These include measures to improve resilience, disrupt criminal operators, counter illicit finance and to work together diplomatically to deal with this challenge. Ireland is one of the founding members of CRI.

“At the meeting in the White House on Tuesday last, the CRI agreed to a series of new concrete measures, including the creation of an International Counter Ransomware Task Force (ICRTF).

“The NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre) delegation also had meetings with a number of US Government agencies, including Ambassador Nathaniel Fick, the newly appointed US Cyber Ambassador and Eric Goldstein, the Director for Cyber Security at the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA),” the spokesperson said. 

It is the latest move by the NCSC which, as previously reported by The Journal, is engaged in a major increase in capability.  

The White House said that the involvement of an international taskforce was critical to fighting online cyber attacks against critical infrastructure.  

“While the United States has made concerted efforts under our own national authorities and capabilities to fight the scourge of ransomware, it is a challenge that knows no borders.

“Through this Initiative, the Administration is taking concrete actions with our international partners to protect our citizens and businesses from cyber criminals,” a statement said. 

Other key agreements centre around a method to develop “lessons learned and strategies for responding to significant ransomware events”

There is also a plan to proactively tackle “major cybercriminal actors”, greater resourcing to build capacity to effectively disrupt the threat of ransomware while also giving a tool box to national cyber experts to consolidated “tactics, techniques, and procedures”.

Critically for Ireland the CRI will be designed to give the various member States a “breadth of expertise and technical capability brought together under the working groups”.

The government and gardaí launched a joint awareness campaign last month for October’s European Cyber Security Month.

Along with ransomware, the campaign will be warning vulnerable people such as the elderly to be aware of phishing scams, where a message or a link asks for someone’s personal details.

The NCSC said that less than 10% of companies that pay a ransom to cyber criminals will get all of their data back.

As part of the NCSC strategy they have issued guidance including a ‘Cyber Vitals’ checklist and ‘12 Steps to Cyber Security’ for businesses — to help them to defend against ransomware attacks.

In October the NCSC and Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau saw a noticeable change in the tactics of criminal ransomware groups.

The centre said that rather than focussing on Governments, critical infrastructure, and big business, they are increasingly targeting smaller businesses.

Both agencies advise that ransom payments should not be made to criminal groups. They have said that there is no guarantee that paying a ransom will lead to your data being successfully decrypted or prevent the data from being leaked online.

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