The Biden administration formed a new partnership with Israel to fight ransomware attackers and defend the critical infrastructure that underpins modern life in both countries.
The Treasury Department said it would work as part of a new U.S.-Israeli task force on financial technology (fintech), innovation and cybersecurity to define how the two countries will cooperate differently now.
“Harnessing both the power of international cooperation and technology innovation will position us to support economic competitiveness, prosperity, and to combat global threats including ransomware,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo said in a statement. “As the global economy recovers and ransomware and other illicit finance threats present a grave challenge to Israel and the United States, increased information exchanges, joint work, and collaboration on policy, regulation, and enforcement are critical to our economic and national security objectives.”
Mr. Adeyemo announced the partnership amid a trip to Israel lasting Saturday through Monday. The Treasury Department official met Israeli officials and fintech and cybersecurity entrepreneurs, and discussed national security priorities such as Iran and countering terrorist financing during his visit, according to the Treasury Department.
The Treasury Department said the burgeoning task force is developing an agreement about how the U.S. and Israel will define acceptable information sharing related to the financial sector, particularly about cybersecurity and threats.
The forthcoming memorandum of understanding also intends to detail how the countries will better practice “cross-border cybersecurity exercises” surrounding global financial institutions.
The Biden administration’s announcement of its partnership with Israel is part of its broader focus on relying on international collaboration as the solution to ransomware attackers and hackers that have hit medical facilities, schools and businesses with abandon as the COVID-19 pandemic pushed more people online.
The administration’s approach to fighting ransomware will receive new scrutiny from Congress on Wednesday, when a House Homeland Security subcommittee examines the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts with input from officials within the U.S. Secret Service and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
Word of the federal government’s new work with Israel also comes on the heels of the Commerce Department’s addition of the Israeli tech and spyware firm NSO Group to its Entity List earlier this month.
The Entity List is a blacklist of foreign people and enterprises facing restrictions on their businesses in the U.S. because of national security concerns.
The crackdown on NSO Group came after revelations that the firm sold a product giving people access to a smartphone user’s messages, camera and microphone without action by the victimized user, according to the Pegasus Project, an investigation organized by the news outlet Forbidden Stories.
NSO Group previously said it planned to push the Biden administration to reverse its decision.