U.S. President Joe Biden wants the federal response to a recent spate of ransomware attacks to focus on the use of cryptocurrency, a spokesperson said Tuesday.
Meat producer JBS confirmed on Sunday it was suffering from a ransomware incident and faced a demand from a “criminal organization,” Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. In response, the White House wants to better evaluate ransomware attacks and track crypto payments to threat actors.
“President Biden has already launched a rapid strategic review to address the increased threat of ransomware to include four lines of effort … [including] expanding cryptocurrency analysis to find and pursue criminal transaction[s],” she said.
Other lines of inquiry include evaluating how ransomware is distributed and working with other nations to “hold countries who harbor ransom actors accountable,” she said.
Ransomware attacks occur when malicious actors deploy software to a victim’s computer or network that essentially locks all files and data. The attackers may offer to send the victim a decryption key if they pay a ransom. This ransom has often been charged in bitcoin, and such attacks have been becoming more profitable over the past few months, according to a Chainalysis report.
These attacks tend to spread much further than just impacting the victim companies. Attacks against firms that provide goods or services may end up disrupting thousands or millions of people’s lives. The Colonial Pipeline shutdown threatened to cause fuel shortages across the East coast of the U.S., while the Irish health system had to cancel medical appointments.
In Tuesday’s briefing, Jean-Pierre said combating ransomware is now “a priority” for the Biden government.
“This builds on President Biden’s executive order, which is now being implemented. The executive order outlines five high-priority cybersecurity initiatives that, if implemented, will reduce the risk of cyberattacks including ransomware,” she said.