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US, Israel join forces to combat ransomware attacks

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The US and Israel established a joint cybersecurity initiative to fight the use of ransomware in hacking incidents and threats to the global financial system.

Less than two weeks after the US blacklisted NSO Group -- the maker of Pegasus spyware -- and another Israeli company for developing spyware, the agreement signals an opportunity for the two allies to join forces. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said ransomware and other forms of illicit finance are a shared challenge.

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The initiative is part of a crackdown on ransomware after a series of high-profile attacks and follows last week’s arrest of several people associated with a Russia-linked ransomware group.

“Increased information exchanges, joint work, and collaboration on policy, regulation, and enforcement are critical to our economic and national security objectives, Adeyemo said in a statement.

“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, he said.

Adeyemo met Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman and National Cyber Director General Yigal Unna to establish the partnership, which will include information-sharing between the two allies about cybersecurity regulations and guidance, hacking incidents and intelligence on cyber threats, according to the Treasury Department.

The initiative also involves increased coordination between government agencies of the two countries, including staff visits, training and exercises to improve responses to cyberattack threats to the global financial system.

A US Treasury Department report in October found that the rise of digital currencies and a decline in the use of the dollar by US adversaries mean that the US needs to take a more multilateral approach to sanctions policy.

NSO was among companies the US recently added to a list entities banned from receiving exports from American companies, citing their roles in developing and supplying spyware.

NSO and Israeli company Candiru were added to the so-called entity list based on evidence that they developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments, which used the tools to target government officials, journalists, business people and others, the Commerce Department on Nov. 3.

NSO said at the time it was dismayed “given that our technologies support US national security interests and policies by preventing terrorism and crime.

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