Future of Digital Security

The Ransomware Task Force: A Broad Coalition and a Comprehensive Plan

By Sarah PowazekLeah Walker on January 14, 2021

Today, the Institute for Security & Technology (IST) is announcing the Co-Chairs of the Ransomware Task Force (RTF) and full membership, including Andreessen Horowitz, FireEye, Palo Alto Networks, Cleveland Clinic, Red Canary, Coveware, Chainalysis, and many others. As this coalition begins its work in earnest, we want to expand on why we are launching the RTF, and the change we will collectively work towards engendering. 

Ransomware is a flourishing criminal industry with an expanding list of targets. Private homes, large businesses, schools, governments, hospitals, and nearly every facet of everyday life are being targeted, disrupted, and held hostage. Ransomware not only risks the personal and financial security of individuals, but  also threatens national security and human life. Attacks on hospitals can, and have, delayed healthcare treatment. Attacks on energy producers can, and have, shut down operations. Attacks on the energy grid, on a nuclear plant, or on any number of critical assets could have devastating environmental and human casualties. Ransomware is a direct threat to our daily lives, and should be considered a clear and present danger to all corners of society. 

The global community can no longer afford to address ransomware on a case-by-case basis — now is the time for comprehensive and decisive action. 

It is for this purpose that IST is facilitating the Ransomware Task Force, a broad coalition of experts from disparate sectors dedicated to producing a roadmap for ransomware mitigation. The objective is not simply to put forward ideas but to provide actionable solutions that can be undertaken in the immediate and long-term.

Since our initial December 2020 launch of a seasoned slate of security experts, academics, and nonprofits, we are pleased to expand our coalition to include lawyers, finance and healthcare experts, and other government and international partners. A full list of formal members can be found here.

This effort is spearheaded by our powerhouse Co-Chairs — John Davis from Palo Alto Networks, Megan Stifel from Global Cyber Alliance, and Michael Phillips from Resilience — who bring a wealth of leadership experience, from the NSC to the DoJ, and across private industry, national security, law, and technological innovation. 

Our coalition partners are varied and experienced, but most importantly, they come from different sectors that have been affected by, or have fought against, ransomware attacks. This diverse partnership is key to the success of the RTF, both to ensure the inclusion of each sector’s unique concerns and solutions, but also because the technical and policy aspects of the ransomware threat are inextricable. Only a broad and inclusive group can collectively understand the impact of ransomware on our global community, and devise novel solutions to this persistent threat.

Over the next few months, the RTF will synthesize solutions from all sectors, engage dozens of relevant stakeholders, and produce a roadmap with the means to put a sizable dent in the future of ransomware. We firmly believe that the ability exists to significantly mitigate this threat, and look forward to working with our incredible partners to make this a reality.