threat detection

DHS, White House turn spotlight on ransomware

The Department of Homeland Security and the White House are putting the spotlight on combatting ransomware, actively developing plans to confront the issue.

DHS has assembled a task force with representatives from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Secret Service, Coast Guard and Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations unit, according to Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The new task force is part of the secretary's planned "60-day sprint" on ransomware that was announced in March as the first in a series of new efforts.

"Beyond CISA…the entire federal government is stepping up to face this challenge," Mayorkas said at an April 29 event hosted by the Institute for Security and Technology. "The White House is developing a plan dedicated to tackling this problem," and the Justice Department recently established its own task force focused on ransomware, he confirmed.

Ransomware "has disproportionately impacted the healthcare industry during the COVID pandemic, and has shut down schools, hospitals, police stations, city governments, and U.S. military facilities,” according to a new report by IST featuring recommendations for the Biden administration on combatting ransomware.

Some of the report's recommendations include establishing a U.S. government "Joint Ransomware Task Force," forming an international coalition focused on ransomware, sanctioning countries that fail to take action against threat actors and designating ransomware a national security threat.

Mayorkas earlier this month issued a joint statement with Attorney General Merrick Garland and counterparts in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada on the threat ransomware poses.

"Ransomware is a growing cyber threat which compromises the safety of our citizens, the security of the online environment, and the prosperity of our economies. It can be used with criminal intent, but is also a threat to national security," the April 7 statement said.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has seen cyber threat actors exploiting this new environment as a means of furthering malicious activity," the statement continued.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Justin Katz covers cybersecurity for FCW. Previously he covered the Navy and Marine Corps for Inside Defense, focusing on weapons, vehicle acquisition and congressional oversight of the Pentagon. Prior to reporting for Inside Defense, Katz covered community news in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. areas. Connect with him on Twitter at @JustinSKatz.


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