WASHINGTON (ABC) — After an uptick in high-profile cyberattacks threatening to derail the country’s infrastructure, on Thursday, the White House released a new memo to private businesses urging them to take “immediate steps” to shore up their digital defenses.
The White House contacted American businesses increasingly finding themselves the target of cyber- and ransomware attacks. Anne Neuberger—Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology—wrote in a new memo that, “All organizations must recognize that no company is safe from being targeted by ransomware, regardless of size or location.”
This after the country’s largest mass-transit agency in New York City revealed its computers were the target of an attempted attack linked to the Chinese government in April. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the attack didn’t disrupt operating the subway system. And in Massachusetts, a ferry system that connects Cape Cod to Martha’s Vineyard confirmed that it was also the victim of a cyber attack just as summer travel kicked into gear.
The new trend is part of a global criminal pivot from stealing data to hobbling operations via ransomware, where companies are hit with demands for million-dollar payments to regain control of their operating systems. “The threat is here now, it is the new way of warfare and we need to be prepared,” says Elizabeth Neumann, ABC News Contributor for National Security.
The recent spate of attacks raises the stakes for Biden’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The FBI just this week blamed a cyber-criminal group based in Russia for hacking into the world’s largest meat supplier, JBS. That followed an earlier ransomware attack by Russian-based hackers on the Colonial Pipeline, which caused gas prices to spike in the southeast.
JBS says it’s “on schedule” to resume production at all of its American plants. But the days-long shutdown could affect meat prices, causing them to climb like gas prices did.
Asked about possible retaliation, the White House said all options are on the table, making it clear these attacks are on the agenda for the much anticipated meeting: “This’ll certainly be a topic of discussion that harboring criminal entities that are intending to do harm that are doing harm to the critical infrastructure in the United States is not acceptable.” That’s according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
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The president last month signed an executive order laying out a number of new cyber defense plans, and the White House memo on Thursday urged companies to take further security steps themselves. Still big questions remain about whether the federal government is doing enough to help keep businesses safe,