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Addressing Ransomware in the U.S. Financial Sector

The financial sector has become more vulnerable to cyber threats nowadays, as it relies more heavily on technology and the internet. The G7 Cyber Expert Group (CEG) recently issued two reports on ransomware and third-party risk in the financial sector. The CEG is co-chaired by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure (OCCIP) and the Bank of England. These freely available and publicly accessible resources are designed to assist financial sector entities in better understanding cybersecurity topics agreed upon by a multilateral consensus.

The Fundamental Elements of Ransomware Resilience for the Financial Sector delivers more significant building blocks for financial entities to answer the ransomware threat. One of the CEG’s Fundamental Elements, the document is non-prescriptive and non-binding. This document’s goal is to guide financial institutions, both public and private, to guide their internal ransomware mitigation activities. The report provides an overview of the G7’s current policy approaches, industry guidance and best practices.  Furthermore, the collaboration of the G7 jurisdictions in producing this report highlights global efforts to promote financial sector resilience.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software used by cybercriminals. When ransomware infects a computer or network, it locks it down or encrypts its data. Cybercriminals demand ransom money from their victims in exchange for data release. To avoid ransomware infection, it is vital to keep an eye out for telltale signs and use security software. Malware victims have three options after being infected: pay the ransom, attempt to remove the malware, or restart the device.

Extortion Trojans frequently use the Remote Desktop Protocol, phishing emails, and software vulnerabilities as attack vectors. As a result, a ransomware attack can target both individuals and businesses. The ransomware threat has grown in scope and impact and is now a pressing concern for nations worldwide.

The fact that attackers operate on a global scale to avoid prosecution makes it a global issue. Ransomware has spawned a criminal ecosystem that provides services ranging from unauthorised access to targeted networks to money laundering, all fueled by illicit financial gains.

The CEG also released an updated version of a report published in 2018 – The Fundamental Elements of Third-Party Risk Management for the Financial Sector. The G7 CEG deemed this revision necessary to keep up with the ever-changing cyber threat landscape due to financial institutions’ increasing use of service providers in central operational functions and the following vulnerabilities created by this reliance. The update includes explicit recommendations for monitoring supply chain risks, identifying systemically important third-party providers, and identifying concentration risks.

After being adopted by the G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, these reports were announced by the Bundesbank in October 2022 as part of Germany’s presidency of the G7. They were published on the Bundesbank’s website alongside previous Fundamental Elements on financial sector cybersecurity, penetration testing, and cyber exercises.

The G7 CEG was established in 2015 as a multi-year working group to coordinate cybersecurity policy and strategy across the eight G7 countries. The G7 CEG serves as a vehicle for information sharing, cooperation, incident response, and policy coordination.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, Singapore also formed a Counter Ransomware Task Force (CRTF), an agency from various domains to strengthen Singapore’s counter-ransomware efforts. The task force brings together efforts to promote a resilient and secure cyber environment, guided by the recommendations in the CRTF report.

Ransomware is a threat to both businesses and individuals, according to David Koh, Commissioner of Cybersecurity, Chief Executive of CSA, and Chairman of the CRTF. It can be harmful economically, socially, and even in terms of national security. Moreover, ransomware is a problem both globally and across domains.


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