Justice Department to elevate ransomware attacks to be on par with terrorism

Rep. Hudson urges Biden to postpone meeting with Putin over Russia-based ransomware attacks

Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., argues that President Biden ‘needs to’ tell Russian President Vladimir Putin to ‘stop the hacking, then we will sit down and talk.’

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is looking to elevate investigations surrounding ransomware attacks to be on par with how terrorism is prioritized, reports noted Thursday.

Fox News could not immediately reach the DOJ, but senior officials told Reuters the recent increase in cyberattacks targeting U.S. interests, including the fallout from the East Coast’s Colonial pipeline hack, have prompted officials to take decisive action. 

“It’s a specialized process to ensure we track all ransomware cases regardless of where it may be referred in this country, so you can make the connections between actors and work your way up to disrupt the whole chain,” DOJ principal associate deputy attorney general John Carlin told the news outlet. 

The cyberattack last month against the largest U.S. fuel pipeline lasted for seven days, causing a spike in gas prices and temporary fuel shortages.

Ultimately, Colonial chose to payout $5 million in ransom funds a criminal group based in Russia in order to regain access to their system.

Internal guidance sent to U.S. attorney’s offices nationwide pointed to the Colonial attack as an example of the “growing threat that ransomware and digital extortion pose to the nation.”

Resident Fellow for American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Klon Kitchen told Fox News, “There are often very serious consequences companies are facing.”

Kitchen said that had Colonial not paid the $5 million ransom, they could have faced much higher costs as their system remained tied up.

But the technology and national security-focused fellow explained that paying criminal groups ransom also has its own set of risks. 

“You don’t know if the ransomer will unlock what they’ve held hostage, and two, it invites other groups to engage in ransomware activities,” Kitchen said. 

Investigators in U.S. attorney offices nationwide will now be required to share details of their investigations with federal authorities.

“We really want to make sure prosecutors and criminal investigators report and are tracking…cryptocurrency exchanges, illicit online forums or marketplaces where people are selling hacking tools, network access credentials – going after the botnets that serve multiple purposes,” Carlin told Reuters.

The White House said President Biden will address the rise in Russia-based cybercrimes with President Vladimir Putin during their Geneva summit later this month. 

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