Politics Crypto and ransomware are top of mind for Joe Biden as he meets with G-7 leaders

16:25  11 june  2021
16:25  11 june  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

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WASHINGTON — Cyberattacks and ransomware will be one of the issues President Joe Biden intends to raise during his first foreign trip as commander in chief, an issue of special significance for his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

a stop sign is covered with graffiti: Crypto and ransomware are top of mind for Joe Biden as he meets with G-7 leaders © Illustration: Andrea Brunty, USA TODAY Network, and Getty Images Crypto and ransomware are top of mind for Joe Biden as he meets with G-7 leaders

In recent weeks, high-profile ransomware attacks on vital U.S. infrastructure brought greater public awareness to both these types of hacks and the vulnerability of large parts of the nation's economy.

A ransomware attack is a type of hacking in which a cybercriminal will infiltrate a computer system and compromise data or operations. The hacker will then require financial compensation from the owner of the system for the data or systems to be returned to the owner.

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"All ransomware attacks are crimes. They should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and every responsible nation should take action against the criminals," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said to reporters earlier this month, adding that Biden will "100%" raise the issue of ransomware and cyberattacks with Putin.

Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie: President Joe Biden speaks at Sportrock Climbing Centers, Friday, May 28, 2021, in Alexandria, Va. © Evan Vucci, AP President Joe Biden speaks at Sportrock Climbing Centers, Friday, May 28, 2021, in Alexandria, Va.

Colonial Pipeline, JBS USA attacks have Russian ties

In May, a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline scrambled payment systems, forcing the firm to temporarily shut down a pipeline that supplies oil to a large swath of the eastern U.S.

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  Why ransomware cyberattacks are on the rise A recent spate of ransomware attacks has left the nation reeling. A recent spate of ransomware attacks has crippled critical American infrastructure, disrupted major food supply chains and revealed that no firm -- big or small -- is safe from these insidious cyberattacks.

An attack this month on JBS USA, the American affiliate of the world's largest meat producer, rendered its systems inoperable for a day.

That both hacks were carried out by Russian-based cyber groups has also raised national security concerns.

"These attacks have been on the rise for years because these criminal groups are able to make a profit off the backs of businesses, schools, local governments, and more," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a June 3 press briefing.

Psaki added that "ransomware is a global problem" that "disrupt organizations around the world," a lens that now informs the White House's thinking on combatting the threat.

While the Federal Bureau of Investigation has said that neither of the groups that carried out the most recent high-profile attacks is directly affiliated with the Russian government, White House aides have repeatedly stressed that "responsible countries do not harbor cybercriminals," a clear condemnation of Russian inaction.

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  FBI, DOJ to treat ransomware attacks with similar priority as terrorism FBI director Chris Wray told The Wall Street Journal that the recent wave of ransomware attacks was similar to what the country faced after 9/11.The Justice Department in Washington DC

The ransomware issue further goes to the heart of Biden's overarching narrative about competition between "democracy versus autocracy," a lens through which the administration sees its global relationships and conflicts with countries like China, Iran and Russia.

In discussing U.S. ransomware policy, Sullivan noted that "how to share information about the nature of the threat among our democracies" was a cornerstone of U.S. strategy and that how we collectively speak with one voice to those countries, including Russia, that are harboring or permitting cyber criminals to operate from their territory" is a key priority for Biden heading into meetings with the G7 in the United Kingdom and NATO in Brussels.

Cryptocurrency is ‘at the core’ of ransomware attacks

The White House has also taken an increasingly stern tone with American businesses as it looks to reorient its cyber-strategy to the new environment. New technologies like cryptocurrency have also earned special attention from national security aides.

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  Ransomware: A cheat sheet for professionals This guide covers various ransomware attacks, including Colonial Pipeline, WannaCry and Petya, the systems hackers target and how to avoid becoming a victim and paying cybercriminals a ransom.In the past, security threats typically involved scraping information from systems that attackers could use for other crimes such as identity theft. Now, cybercriminals have proceeded to directly demanding money from victims by holding their devices--and data--hostage. This type of malware attack in which data is encrypted (or claimed to be) and victims are prompted to pay for the key to restore access, called ransomware, has grown rapidly since 2013.

Sullivan specified the "cryptocurrency challenge" in ransomware "lies at the core of how ... these ransom transactions are played out."

Administration officials have not specified what measures the administration is contemplating regarding cryptocurrencies, though the FBI recently recover over half of the funds in Bitcoin paid to the hacking group "DarkSide."

Advice for companies on cyber vulnerability

In a June 3 letter, the National Security Council's top cyber official, Anne Neuberger, also wrote a letter to corporations urging them to ensure their cyber capabilities were strong enough to resist a ransomware attack.

"All organizations must recognize that no company is safe from being targeted by ransomware, regardless of size or location," Neuberger wrote. "We urge you to take ransomware crime seriously and ensure your corporate cyber defense match the threat."

"Our focus is on the destruction of ransomware infrastructure and actors, including through close cooperation with the private sector," Psaki added at her June press briefing, continuing that national security officials are also focused on "expanding cryptocurrency analysis to find and pursue criminal transactions."

Contributing: Josh Meyer

Follow Matthew Brown online @mrbrownsir.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Crypto and ransomware are top of mind for Joe Biden as he meets with G-7 leaders

Ransomware: Too many firms are still willing to pay up if attacked .
Survey indicates that six in ten organisations would pay the ransom to cyber criminals - despite warnings it only encourages further attacksOver half of organisations would pay the ransom if they fell victim to a ransomware attack – despite repeated warnings that they shouldn't encourage cyber criminal extortion.

usr: 1
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