The Federal government’s Joint Ransomware Task Force (JRTF) kicked off its inaugural meeting with a discussion of new initiatives to collaborate with state, local, tribal, and territorial entities to protect against ransomware intrusions and disrupt malicious actors, according to a September 14 press release from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

CISA co-chaired the meeting with the Federal Bureau for Investigation (FBI) nearly four months after CISA Director Jen Easterly, announced the formation of the JRTF – an interagency body established by Congress to strengthen efforts against the ongoing threat of ransomware.

The plans for the task force were originally outlined in the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act of 2022, which was signed into law early this year.

According to the release, the JRTF will unify existing efforts as well as establish new actions to effectively leverage the unique authorities and capabilities across government and the private sector to combat ransomware.

At the meeting, agencies discussed how to utilize the task force to improve coordination and make measurable progress in addressing the ongoing ransomware threat. They pinpointed four key actions:

    • Prioritizing operations to disrupt specific ransomware actors;
    • Facilitating collaboration between Federal entities, private sector and state, local, tribal, and territorial entities to improve actions against ransomware threats, including efforts to increase adoption of defensive measures to reduce the prevalence of successful ransomware intrusions;
    • Identifying a list of highest threat ransomware entities updated on an ongoing basis; and
    • Collecting, sharing, and analyzing ransomware trends.
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“Significantly reducing the prevalence and impact of ransomware intrusions requires deep collaboration and coordination across the public and private sectors,” said CISA Executive Assistant Director for Cybersecurity, Eric Goldstein. “With our close partners at the FBI and other government agencies and benefiting from the expertise and capabilities of the private sector, this task force will take the necessary steps to synchronize our efforts and implement actions that can help lead to a future where ransomware no longer afflicts American organizations.”

“The Joint Ransomware Task Force signifies the FBI’s continuance to ensure safety, security, and confidence in a digitally connected world, and we’re looking forward to coordinating the threat with a whole-of-government approach,” said FBI Assistant Director of Cyber Division, Bryan Vorndran.

The JRTF kick-off meeting followed news that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) suffered an intense ransomware attack, where they were forced to declare an emergency to fix the hacked computer systems. CISA then released a Cybersecurity Advisory warning the education sector about the frequent targeting of ransomware attacks in K-12 schools – especially at the beginning of the academic year when technology systems are most vulnerable.

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