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US to partner with Israel to combat ransomware attacks

The two countries will share financial sector data, including cybersecurity regulations and threat intelligence
A screen at the Laboratory of high security (LHS-PEC) of Rennes, a small fortress from where the first studies on the "ransomwares" emerged (AFP/File photo)

The United States will partner with Israel to combat ransomware, the Treasury Department announced on Sunday, with the two countries launching a joint task force to address cybersecurity.

The task force will develop a memorandum of understanding supporting information sharing related to the financial sector, including cybersecurity regulations and threat intelligence, the department said.

'Ransomware and other illicit finance threats present a grave challenge to Israel and the United States'

- Wally Adeyemo, Deputy Treasury Secretary

The announcement follows a virtual meeting on ransomware that was held at the White House in October with the European Union and more than 30 countries, including Israel.

In a statement on Sunday, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo called for international cooperation to address the abuse of virtual currency and to disrupt the ransomware business model.

"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. 

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"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."

A surge in ransomware

The partnership follows measures taken to combat a surge in ransomware that has struck several big US companies, including an attack on the largest fuel pipeline in the United States that crippled fuel delivery for several days.

A broader US-Israeli task force was also launched on Sunday to address issues related to fintech and cybersecurity, the Treasury Department said.

Google warns of continued attacks from Iranian hackers
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Adeyemo met with Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Director General of the National Cyber Directorate Yigal Unna in Israel on Sunday to establish a bilateral partnership, the department said in a statement.

Earlier this month, the US Justice Department charged a Ukraine national and a Russian in one of the worst ransomware attacks against American targets.

In October, Google warned that it had seen a surge in government-backed hacking operations in 2021, expressing particular concern over an Iranian group that attacked a British university earlier this year.

The tech giant said that in 2021 it had sent 50,000 warnings to account holders that they had been a target of government-backed phishing or malware attempts, a 33 percent increase from last year.

That same week, Microsoft warned that Iran-linked hackers had targeted dozens of defence technology and maritime transportation firms - both American and Israeli - in an attack that "supports the national interests" of Tehran.

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