Days after a ransomware attack knocked close to a quarter of U.S. beef production offline, the Biden administration warned American executives to be vigilant about cybersecurity in an era of more frequent and more serious threats.
In a stew of NatSec lingo and corporate speak, deputy national security adviser Anne Neuberger wrote Thursday that business leaders “should immediately convene their leadership teams to discuss the ransomware threat” and to “review corporate security” and “business continuity plans” to ensure they can recover quickly following a hack. The administration also encouraged companies to create offline doubles of important information that could help them operate during an attack and to hire private security firms to test their defenses for weaknesses. White House press secretary Jen Psaki weighed in on the matter as well, saying that the administration is focused on strengthening U.S. cybersecurity, but that “we can’t do it alone.” She added that “business leaders have a responsibility to strengthen their cyberdefenses to protect the American public and our economy.”
President Biden also intends to mention the problem in his summit with Vladimir Putin on June 16. While many hackers targeting American firms are based out of Russia, it’s all but certain Putin will do nothing to shut them down, considering the antagonistic relationship between D.C. and Moscow and the close ties that Russian intelligence has held with independent hackers in the past. As the Brazilian beef company JBS S.A. works to come back online following the hack and a systemwide shutdown to minimize damage, the White House stated this week that the attack likely came from a Russian criminal enterprise.
With the Biden administration returning to the combative approach to U.S.-Russian relations before Donald Trump, the hacking of private American interests has intensified this year. In May, one of the largest insurance firms in the United States, CNA Financial Corporation, paid hackers $40 million after it was locked out of its network for two weeks. The reported payout was significantly larger than the $4.4 million that Colonial Pipeline dished out to the hackers who shut down its operations, leading to gas shortages in the Southeast. These attacks, among many others, come in the wake of the massive SolarWinds breach this winter, in which a state-backed Russian group targeted the technology-infrastructure firm used by the federal government, which Microsoft president Brad Smith described as the “largest and most sophisticated attack the world has ever seen.”