US to treat growing ransomware incidents as terror attacks

FILE PHOTO: FBI Director Christopher Wray delivers remarks to a graduation ceremony at the FBI Academy on the grounds of Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Virginia, U.S. December 15, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Washington, June 6 (IANS) Taking a tough stand on growing ransomware attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and US Justice Department have announced to treat such cyber incidents as terror attacks.

Christopher Wray, Director of the FBI, told The Wall Street Journal that the country is facing a similar challenge like 9/11, and the Bureau has identified about 100 different types of ransomware, several of them being traced to Russia.

“There are a lot of parallels, there’s a lot of importance, and a lot of focus by us on disruption and prevention. There’s a shared responsibility, not just across government agencies but across the private sector and even the average American,” Wray told WSJ on Saturday.

President Joe Biden said last week that his administration was “looking closely” at whether to retaliate against Russia for a recent ransomware attack.

“We’re looking closely at that issue,” Biden told reporters at the White House when asked if the US would retaliate against Russia for the latest ransomware attack.

Major meat producer JBS USA said that it suffered a cyberattack and notified the administration that the ransom demand came from a criminal organisation likely based in Russia.

The latest ransomware attack came weeks after a similar cyberattack targeting Colonial Pipeline, which forced the company to shut down approximately 5,500 miles of fuel pipeline for days.

Senior Justice Department officials were quoted as saying in reports that ransomware attacks would be investigated in a manner similar to terror incidents.

Biden said last month that he would raise the cybercrime issue in talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin when they meet in Geneva on June 16.

Relations between Washington and Moscow have been adversarial in recent years.

The two sides have obvious differences on issues related to Ukraine, cybersecurity, human rights, and US election interference.

Alarmed at repeated cyber-attacks on the country, Biden last month signed an executive order, implementing new policies to improve national cybersecurity.

Admitting that the US is facing persistent and increasingly sophisticated malicious cyber campaigns that threaten the public sector, the private sector, and ultimately the American people’s security and privacy, Biden said that the government must improve its efforts to identify, deter, protect against, detect, and respond to these actions and actors.

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