Top cybersecurity official warns ransomware attacks likely to continue under Biden as hackers get “more brazen”

Top cybersecurity official warns ransomware attacks likely to continue under Biden as hackers get “more brazen”
AP Photo/Sudhin Thanawala
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Top U.S. official, Chris Butera, head of threat hunting for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), warned that recent major ransomware attacks on the United States under President Joe Biden are likely to continue as attackers become “more brazen.” 

Butera’s comments come after a wave of cyberattacks that officials believe originate from Russia have hit the oil and meat industry, the Daily Wire reported.  

“The ransomware actors have become more brazen,” Butera said. “They’ve started to exfiltrate data and try to extort payments.”

Butera said he expects to “continue to see” more ransomware attacks happen, urging companies to not pay the ransoms,  which is the U.S. government’s official position.

Major ransomware attacks have occurred recently against companies in the oil and gas industry, the insurance industry, the transportation industry, and the meat industry

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki blamed the companies themselves for being victims of the attacks, stating that the companies have a responsibility to protect themselves. When a reporter questioned her as to why these attacks were seemingly increasing under Biden, Psaki mocked the reporter, saying  “I think you could certainly go track down those cybercriminals in Russia and have a good chat with them.”

President Biden was asked if he would retaliate against Russia but did not give a definitive answer, laughing when asked if Russian President Vladimir Putin was “testing” him.

“U.S. policy needs to more directly engage with ransomware,” Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Klon Kitchen told Fox News. “We need to change the political calculus of foreign governments who allow ransomware attackers to operate with impunity within their borders.”

“It’s time for the United States to start putting heads on spikes when it comes to confronting and dismantling ransomware groups,” Kitchen continued. “If President Biden does not confront Vladimir Putin about the ransomware groups perpetrating from within Russia, he will be failing in his duty to protect the United States from these types of attacks.”

As reported by the Daily Wire, former CIA officer Bryan Dean Wright said that Russia was launching the cyberattacks against the U.S. for a variety of reasons, but primarily to make life difficult for America.

His remarks follow Moscow threatening the U.S. on Monday, saying, “The Americans must assume that a number of signals from Moscow… will be uncomfortable for them, including in the coming days.”

“Putin uses proxy forces — like Russian crime syndicates or armed mercenaries — to engage in low grade, asymmetrical warfare,” Wright said. “Some say this gives him plausible deniability but that’s only marginally true. He knows we know, and he doesn’t care.”

Wright listed some of the following reasons why the Russians engage in asymmetrical warfare against the U.S.:

  1. We make life difficult for the Russians, namely in our past expansion of NATO into their back yard. We made certain promises about Ukraine — basically that we’d leave it alone — and we didn’t. The Russians haven’t forgotten.
  2. Many older Russians — including and especially Putin & his Govt bureaucrats — still hate America for winning the Cold War. Watching us suffer or poking us in the eye makes them feel good.
  3. Relatedly, the Russians want us to be at each other’s throats. Creating or encouraging conflict between Americans — and especially directing it at certain political leaders — builds resentments that can be leveraged for covert influence campaigns designed to weaken our bonds. That’s helpful for times of conventional warfare or during moments of delicate foreign policy engagements.  Or they do it just to watch us suffer.
  4. There’s an unwieldy mix between corrupt Russian politicians, oligarchs, and the asymmetrical actors like cyber syndicates. They make money off each other. So long as they don’t make too big of a mess globally — US gas lines eventually come back, we quickly get our meat packing plants running again — then it’s a low drag way of greasing lots of palms.
  5. Putin needs a foil. We’re it. For domestic audiences, he needs to convince his people that their old enemy remains just as dangerous in order to keep / firm up his electoral hold. For foreign audiences, it helps cement his aura of the man who will stand up to Washington. He leverages that to expand Russian influence abroad.
  6. Putin generally hates our foreign policy. He thinks we speak in lofty rhetoric, roll in with tanks / diplomatic regime change, and roll back out when the job gets messy, leaving a disaster. So wherever we go, he’s there to gum up the works.
  7. Tactically, when these asymmetrical actors probe us for weaknesses or hack our systems, the Russians learn our countermeasures and policy making processes / responses. In turn, that helps them refine how to better attack or disable us if the day ever comes for bigger, more overt or conventional warfare. Said differently, there’s a clear military calculus to hacking our infrastructure.
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  • By David Menzies

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