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US and Israel join forces to fight ransomware

The two countries will share details of cyber security incidents and threat intelligence

The US and Israel have partnered to create an anti-ransomware task force which will see the two countries work together on protecting their critical financial infrastructure from online extortionists. 

The task force will create a memorandum of understanding to share financial sector information, including details of cyber security incidents and threat intelligence. They will also collaborate on staff training to bolster cyber security skills, and organize joint cyber security exercises that follow financial and investment flows. 

The joint task force will also organize the exchange of technical information on policy and regulation. 

Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo launched the initiative with Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Director General of the National Cyber Directorate Yigal Unna on Sunday as part of a broader partnership on fintech innovation and security. 

This focus is also reflected in the task force's work plan, which will address fintech innovations that fight crimes such as money laundering. It will also explore how fintech and cyber analytics companies can reduce financial risk, the two governments said. 

As part of the joint effort, the US Treasury Department will participate in the CyberTech Global Tel Aviv conference in January. 

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Last month, Israel participated in a virtual Counter-Ransomware Initiative meeting including over 30 countries. The event is one sign the US is getting more serious about ransomware crimes. The Department of State offered $10 million for information on the BlackMatter ransomware group, while its Treasury Department also sanctioned a cryptocurrency exchange over its alleged ties to ransomware actors. 

VirusTotal's recent Ransomware Activity Report suggested Israel was the country most hit by ransomware in the last year. The report showed a 600% increase in the number of ransomware samples reported to the service by Israeli organizations since 2020. The report was published just as Israel's Hillel Yaffe Medical Center reeled from a large ransomware attack experts said could take months to recover from. 

Last month, Microsoft reported last month it saw Iranian hackers targeting Israel and US defense contractors. 

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