U.S. And Israel Join Forces To Combat Ransomware Attacks
11-15-21 – This story was updated with new analysis about the partnership between the U.S. and Israel and advice for business leaders.
The U.S. Department of Treasury announced Sunday a partnership with Israel to help combat ransomware attacks. In a press release, the federal agency said a bilateral task force has been formed to support financial technology innovations and cybersecurity. It said the new initiative is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to accelerate international cooperation to counter ransomware.
The announcement follows the Counter-Ransomware Initiative meeting that was held virtually at the White House in October with the European Union and more than 30 countries, including Israel. “At that meeting, Deputy Secretary Adeyemo underscored the importance of international cooperation to address the abuse of virtual currency and disrupt the ransomware business model,” according to the Treasury Department.
Harnessing The Power Of International Cooperation
“Harnessing both the power of international cooperation and of technology innovation will position us to support economic competitiveness, prosperity, and to combat global threats including ransomware,” Adeyemo said.
“As the global economy recovers and ransomware and other illicit finance threats present a grave challenge to Israel and the United States, increased information exchanges, joint work, and collaboration on policy, regulation, and enforcement are critical to our economic and national security objectives,’’ he noted.
Memorandum Of Understanding
The task force will develop a memorandum of understanding concerning:
Permissible information sharing related to the financial sector, including cybersecurity regulations and guidance, cybersecurity incidents, and cybersecurity threat intelligence.
Training And Study
Staff training and study visits to promote cooperation in the area of cybersecurity and the financial system.
Competency-building activities such as the conduct of cross-border cybersecurity exercises linked to global financial institutions and investment flows.
Expert Technical Exchanges
The Treasury Department said the new task force will launch a series of expert technical exchanges on policy, regulation and outreach to support fintech innovation that features robust cybersecurity protections and that can advance compliance with international standards on anti-money laundering, counter-terrorist financing, and countering the financing of proliferation.
“The technical exchanges will examine how cyber analytics firms, as well as fintech and regtech innovators, are developing new ways to mitigate illicit finance risk and to enhance public sector analytical and enforcement activities,” the agency said in a press release.
Partnership Makes Sense
Sergey Gribov is a partner at Flint Capital, an Israeli-American venture capital firm with a primary interest in cybersecurity. He noted that, “Today, about 30% of cyber security companies are Israeli, so a partnership between the United States and Israel makes sense. Israel was the first country to recognize cyberspace as a separate warfare domain. Furthermore, it established the Cyber Directorate, which is responsible for cyber defence in the civilian and government spheres.
“All of this creates an environment for cybersecurity experts. Most cyber security entrepreneurs in Israel served in military cyber units, which is very helpful for public-private collaboration, since the same people move from the government to the private sector and back again. As an example, David Primor, the founder of one of our cybersecurity startups Cynomi, used to be the CTO of Israel Cyber Directorate,” he noted
“It is unfortunate that Israel is constantly under attack, but it is more successful than many other countries in defending both public and private infrastructure. In part, that’s because government cyberinfrastructure is advanced and in part, it’s because private and public cyber companies collaborate successfully,” Gribov observed.
“The U.S. and Israel have partnered closely on defense for many years,” according to Lionel Sigal, head of cyber threat intelligence at CYE, a cyber defense company. “This cooperation in the cyber warfare arena is surely mutually beneficial and will increase the sharing of knowledge and technologies to improve the detection, attribution, and prevention of attacks, as well as development of technologies to better engage future attacks.
“Together, Israel, being a cyber ‘elite’country and the U.S. with its superpower resources, can create a very effective ecosystem to combat ransomware,” he said.
Just The Beginning?
Yochai Corem is the CEO of data risk protection company Cyberint. He said, “This partnership is the very beginning of what will one day become a specialized Interpol for the cyber world— involving two ‘cyber superpowers’—which makes it a big deal.
“Sharing information and expanding the intelligence that can be tapped into is a positive step that will help identify, understand, and prevent threat actors at higher rates.”
Advice For Business Leaders
Sigal advised that, “It is very important for businesses to cooperate with cyber companies which hold ACTs – Advanced Cyber Talents—[who are people] who have state-level (or above) hands-on experience in attacking and/or defending against state-level cyber actors.”
Corem said, “Business leaders should understand that they need to be doing the same thing, not necessarily by trying to form partnerships themselves, but by implementing solutions that will allow them to easily integrate a wide array of data.
“That means [human intelligence] gathered from the dark web, scanning databases for known suspicious IP addresses, and being able to carry out a digital ‘forensic’ investigation to prevent and limit damage from ransomware attacks and other types as well,” he counseled.
Recognize The New Reality
Kenneth Williams is the executive director of the Center for Cyber Defense and a program director for the cybersecurity programs at the American Public University System. He said, “The new reality for businesses is the fact that we are in a flat world without well-defined boundaries and we share resources whether or not we wish to do so. It is time that this fact is recognize[d] and business move to a more collaborative position for the good of all.
“Governments such as the U.S. and Israel have worked together to share information and resources while been mindful to protect their national interest. [T]his has worked and the new reality of sharing resources in the virtual world is simply an extension,” he concluded.