Commerce secretary Raimondo says US looking at ‘all options’Ahead of Putin summit, Russia thought to harbor perpetrators
Reuters in WashingtonSun 6 Jun 2021 14.07 EDT
US officials on Sunday ratcheted up pressure on companies and foreign adversaries to fight cybercriminals, and said Joe Biden was considering options to counter the growing threat including a military response.
At the end of a week in which the FBI director, Christopher Wray, said cybercrime threat presented “a lot of parallels” to the threat of terrorism before 9/11, the commerce secretary, Gina Raimondo, was asked if military action was being considered.
The administration was looking at “all of the options” to defend the US against ransomware criminals, she said.
Raimondo did not detail what those options could look like, but told ABC’s This Week the topic will be on the agenda when Biden meets the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, this month. The rising threat of cyberattacks has pushed the Biden administration into a more aggressive stance against Russia, which is thought to harbor some perpetrators.
“We’re not taking anything off the table as we think about possible repercussions, consequences or retaliation,” Raimondo said.
Last weekend, the world’s largest meatpacker was targeted by cybercriminals. In May, the largest fuel pipeline in the US was attacked, stoking fears over supply disruptions of food and fuel.
US adversaries have the ability to shut down the country’s entire power grid, the energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm, told CNN’s State of the Union, noting “thousands of attacks on all aspects of the energy sector”.
The recent attacks have prompted Biden to put the issue of Russia harboring hackers on the agenda for his meeting with Putin.
The White House plans to use the 16 June summit in Geneva to deliver a clear message to the Russian leader, officials say. A next step could be destabilization of the computer servers used to carry out such hacks, some cyber experts say.
US officials are asking private companies to be more vigilant and transparent. The transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, said the May attack on Colonial Pipeline, which created temporary gasoline shortages, showed the national implications of a hack on a private company.
“Part of our vulnerability on cybersecurity is you’re only as strong as your weakest link,” he told CBS’s Face the Nation.
Companies need to alert the federal government when they are targeted, Granholm said, and stop paying attackers.
“You shouldn’t be paying ransomware attacks because it only encourages the bad guys,” she said.
While she opposes ransomware payments, Granholm said she is uncertain whether Biden or Congress is prepared to outlaw them.
Companies should be required to report ransomware attacks, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia told NBC’s Meet the Press, though he stopped short of saying he supported making such payments illegal.