Anne Neuberger
Image: Dina Temple-Raston / Recorded Future News

White House’s Neuberger: Pace of ransomware takedown operations isn’t enough

MUNICH, GERMANY — Ransomware takedown operations by law enforcement around the world are putting a crimp in cybercrime, but have not done nearly enough to raise the cost for would-be attackers, according to Anne Neuberger, the White House deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technologies.

“The core question we ask ourselves is is it riskier, costlier, and harder for attackers to be successful,” she told an audience at the Munich Cyber Security Conference (MCSC). “And in that way I believe, as a team, we have made it harder, but not hard enough.”

To be more effective, she said the battle against ransomware actors needs to be more layered than it is now.

Take the issue of cryptocurrency. The U.S. and other partners have sanctioned cryptocurrency mixers – the services that launder tainted cryptocurrency by mixing it with clean crypto so it is harder to trace – but it has become a band-aid solution. The sanctions typically last only four to six months, she said, and that’s not enough.

The high visibility takedowns of ransomware groups like the one in December that targeted infrastructure related to the notorious ransomware gang Alphv, or BlackCat, is a start, but these law enforcement operations aren’t occurring with the cadence necessary to solve the problem. “We’re doing that every 8-12 months, but they have to be more frequent,” she said. “We’ve made progress, but there is far more to be done.”

Neuberger’s comments helped kick off the invite-only MCSC, which convenes on the fringes of a kind of Davos of national security known as the Munich Security Conference (MSC). The MSC used to focus on Cold War concerns, but now it focuses on everything from international biosecurity to good governance in Ukraine.

Its cybersecurity-focused offshoot has been running for 10 years. The conference, which runs for two days, is set to discuss a recasting of the West’s cyber resilience strategy, artificial intelligence, and how to step up efforts to protect elections from interference.

READ MORE: Munich Cyber Security Conference 2024 Live Updates

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Dina Temple-Raston

Dina Temple-Raston

is the Host and Managing Editor of the Click Here podcast as well as a senior correspondent at Recorded Future News. She previously served on NPR’s Investigations team focusing on breaking news stories and national security, technology, and social justice and hosted and created the award-winning Audible Podcast “What Were You Thinking.”