Australia to lead global ransomware taskforce

Australia will chair a taskforce of like-minded countries set on tackling ransomware through greater intelligence sharing and coordination between law enforcement and cyber security agencies.

The International Counter Ransomware Task Force (ICRTF) is one of several “concrete, cooperative actions” to emerge from the two-day Countering Ransomware Initiative (CRI) summit in Washington D.C. this week.

The virtual taskforce, to be hosted by the Department of Home Affairs and its recently established Critical Technology Coordination Centre, is expected to “coordinate resilience, disruption and counter illicit finance activities” when it is convened early next year.

Credit: Dmytro Tyshchenko/

With Australia as inaugural chair and coordinator, ICRTF members will “commit to contribute to joint work of the coalition through information and capability sharing, as well as joint action in the fields of resilience, disruption and countering illicit finance,” the White House said in a statement.

Australia already leads the CRI working group into disruption, possibly a reflection of mature capabilities at the disposal of the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

In a statement, Minister for Home Affairs and Cyber Security Clare O’Neil said the taskforce would unite key international stakeholders across governments to develop innovative solution to counter the ransomware threat.

“The ransomware threat extends across international borders, and I call on other nations to be party of this global initiative to support effective detection, disruption and prosecution of malicious cyber actors who utilise ransomware for financial and other gain,” she said.

Minister O’Neil said the recent cyber-attack against Medibank Private, which compromised highly sensitive health data, “is a blunt reminder that we need a globally focused capability to combat cyber threats, including ransomware”.

“This international taskforce will enable sustained and impactful collaboration between international agencies to disrupt, combat and defend against the scourge of ransomware,” she said.

The taskforce was agreed to at the CRI summit, which was attended by 36 countries and the European Union. This year’s edition had private sector involvement for the first time, with Australian cybersecurity firm Internet 2.0 one of only 13 companies and organisations to receive an invite.

Other initiatives to be progressed over the next year include creating a fusion cell at the Regional Cyber Defence Centre in Lithuania to “test a scaled version of the ICRTF and operationalise ransomware-related threat information sharing commitments”.

Convened by the United States government, the CRI summit also saw member countries discuss the current threat environment and efforts to counter ransomware since the first virtual summit last year.

“The summit was an opportunity for like-minded governments to build effective networks to counter the scourge of ransomware, toughen cyber resilience within the community and bring ransomware criminals to justice,” Ms O’Neil said.

“Our new Cyber Security Strategy will be looking at further ways to harden our nation so Australia becomes an unwelcome operating environment for cyber criminals.

“We will also be calling for continued international cooperation and coordination through joint operations and forums like the Counter Ransomware Initiative Summit to enhance shared capabilities to detect, disrupt, investigate and prosecute malicious cyber actors.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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