The White House on Wednesday and Thursday will convene meetings with representatives from more than 30 countries to discuss how to counter ransomware, leaving out the country the president most frequently criticizes for hosting gangs of hackers: Russia.
“Participants will cover everything from efforts to improve national resilience, to experiences addressing the misuse of virtual currency to launder ransom payments, our respective efforts to disrupt and prosecute ransomware criminals and diplomacy as a tool to counter ransomware,” a senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday.
The official didn’t specify why Russia didn’t get an invitation beyond unnamed “constraints.” The lack of an invitation this time “doesn’t preclude future opportunities for them to participate.” The U.S. also has other avenues for discussing ransomware with the Kremlin, the official said.
The lack of an invitation for Russia exemplifies the tensions over when the U.S. might involve more adversarial nations in discussions over areas of conflict in cyberspace. In international forums, Russia and the U.S. often find themselves jostling for leadership on cyber issues, with agreement rare.
U.S.-Russia conversations over ransomware are marked by “frank and professional” discussions that includes the U.S. sharing information on criminal activity within Russian borders, the senior administration official said. “We’ve seen some steps by Russia” in response, the official said, but would not elaborate on what those steps were.
The beginning session of the meeting will be open to the press. After that, ministers and senior officials from the invited countries will brainstorm how to further counter ransomware, then the White House will later summarize the discussions.
The participating nations are Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, the Republic of Korea, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates and the U.K. Officials from the European Union are also attending.