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White House to host 2nd ransomware conference

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The White House is set to host on Monday and Tuesday a second international conference on combatting “ransomware,” with 36 nations and representatives from some of the world’s biggest companies in attendance.

While last year’s meeting took place online due to the pandemic, officials will be gathering in Washington for this year’s discussions, a senior US administration official told reporters Sunday.

Ransomware attacks, in which corporate or government computer systems are taken offline until money — often in the form of cryptocurrency — is paid, are “only getting more challenging” to confront, the official said.

“We’re seeing the pace and the sophistication of the ransomware attacks increasing faster than our resilience and disruption efforts,” said the senior official, who asked not to be named.

The official gave the example of a very recent attack on the Los Angeles school district, the largest in the United States, after which confidential data was leaked by cyber criminals.

She also mentioned the numerous ransomware attacks against hospitals around the world, as well as against states or local governments, such as the attacks this year against the Costa Rican government or the city of Palermo in southern Italy.

Unlike the 2021 meeting, private companies will participate in the talks, including American tech giant Microsoft, the German group Siemens and the Indian conglomerate Tata.

“We’ve invited the private sector to join us for a discussion because we know they have visibility on the threat on the actors and networks that are used and on the best way to mitigate these threats,” said the senior official.

“This is just the beginning. We’re continuing to reach out to additional companies to get additional perspectives,” she added.