In a stern warning to state-sponsored malicious cyber activities, the grouping of India, Australia, Japan and the United States – collectively called Quad – has vowed to assist each other in ensuring the security and resilience of regional cyberinfrastructure.
A joint statement issued after foreign ministers Penny Wong of Australia, S Jaishankar of India, Hayashi Yoshimasa of Japan and US Secretary of State Tony Blinken met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York called on states to take reasonable steps to address ransomware operations emanating from within their territory.
"We exercise responsibility to assist each other in the face of malicious cyber activity, including from ransomware, against critical infrastructure," it said.
The joint statement described this as a call to action.
The Quad or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue comprising India, the US, Japan and Australia was set up in 2017 to counter China's aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region.
The foreign ministers said that the Quad countries are committed to an open, secure, stable, accessible, and peaceful cyberspace and support regional initiatives to enhance the capacity of countries to implement the UN Framework for Responsible State Behaviour in Cyberspace.
"We strongly believe that focused initiatives for enhancing the cyber capabilities of Indo-Pacific countries would ensure the security and resilience of regional cyberinfrastructure," it said.
"The Ministers signal our collective will to fight ransomware threats to the cyberinfrastructure that enables Indo-Pacific economic development and security. We commit to further cooperate on capacity building programmes and initiatives that are aimed at enhancing regional cybersecurity and improving resilience against ransomware attacks in the Indo-Pacific," the statement said.
Recalling the last Quad Foreign Ministers' Meeting on February 11 this year, the ministers said they are committed to addressing the global threat of ransomware, which has been an obstacle to Indo-Pacific economic development and security.
"The transnational nature of ransomware can adversely affect our national security, finance sector and business enterprise, critical infrastructure, and the protection of personal data. We appreciate the progress made by the 36 countries supporting the US-led Counter Ransomware Initiative and the regular, practical-oriented consultations against cybercrime in the Indo-Pacific region," they said.
According to the statement, Quad countries commit to further cooperation on capacity-building programmes and initiatives that are aimed at enhancing regional cybersecurity and improving resilience against ransomware attacks in the Indo-Pacific.
The ministers highlighted that practical cooperation in countering ransomware among Indo-Pacific partners would result in denying safe haven to ransomware actors in the region.
"We focus on results-oriented efforts to assist partners across the Indo-Pacific to strengthen their resilience, trust, and confidence in cyberspace, and effective incident-response capabilities," it said.
Underscoring the importance of the multistakeholder approach for counter-ransomware capacity building, which includes promoting the role of existing mechanisms such as the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise, the statement said the ministers recognise that the multistakeholder approach to internet governance will uphold shared values in the design and use of technologies and cyberspace across the region.
"We welcome the negotiations of a possible new UN cybercrime convention as a long-term means to address cybercrime more broadly which will have utility in countering ransomware. We underscore the need for a new treaty to be drafted in a technologically neutral and flexible manner, which does not describe specific technologies or criminal methodologies," said the joint statement.