Senator to introduce new bill to force ransomware payment disclosures

Organizations would have 48 hours to inform DHS

The senate floor during a vote

Democratic senators will introduce legislation requiring ransomware victims to notify the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) within 48 hours of payment.

The Ransom Disclosure Act, introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Deborah Ross, would also force organizations to disclose the amount of ransom demanded and paid, the type of currency used for the ransom payment, and any known information about the entity demanding the ransom.

It would also require DHS to make public the information disclosed during the previous year, excluding identifying information about the entities that paid ransoms, and establish a website through which individuals can voluntarily report ransom payments.

Warren said that while ransomware attacks were “skyrocketing” there was a lack of critical data to go after cyber criminals.

“My bill with Congresswoman Ross would set disclosure requirements when ransoms are paid and allow us to learn how much money cybercriminals are siphoning from American entities to finance criminal enterprises -- and help us go after them,” she said.

The bill would also support a study on commonalities among ransomware attacks and the extent to which cryptocurrency facilitated these attacks and provide recommendations for protecting information systems and strengthening cybersecurity.

Ross added the US cannot continue to fight ransomware attacks with “one hand tied behind our back.”

“The data that this legislation provides will ensure both the federal government and private sector are equipped to combat the threats that cybercriminals pose to our nation,” she said.

Callum Roman, Head of Threat Intelligence at F-Secure, told ITPro that governments know ransomware is a problem — just how much of a problem is unclear. 

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“Compulsory reporting of ransomware payments could help shed light on the true scale of the problem and not just the tip of the iceberg we see reported in the media,” he said.

Roman added that the legislation may run into issues on reporting based on how and where organizations decide to pay the ransom. If they organize payment through an intermediary, will they have to report? If they pay the ransom from a company in their portfolio that is not under US jurisdiction (aka abroad), will they have to declare? 

“There will always be ways round this type of legislation, but if constructed well, it can have a positive impact on informing the government of the real scope of the issue,” he added.

The most interesting aspect of the suggested legislation is the directive to the DHS to investigate the cryptocurrency facilitation of ransomware, according to Roman.” This may spark further legislation and focus on this medium by the US government. It certainly will help arm it with the information it needs to decide if this is an effective avenue for combating ransomware,” he said.

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