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Government Needs To Step Up To Combat Ransomware Attacks, Execs Say

Ransomware attacks threatening in recent weeks to interfere with the way Americans heat their homes, drive their cars and eat are among factors prompting business leaders to call for a vigorous government response against the attackers, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.

Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity firm FireEye, told the audience at a WSJ Pro Cybersecurity Executive Forum Wednesday per the report: “Pharmaceuticals, hospitals, healthcare, public companies, organizations that don’t have the talent and skills to defend themselves — they’re getting sucker punched.”

Citing the May 7 ransomware attack the prompted the temporary closing of the hugely important Colonial Pipeline, Rob Joyce, director of the National Security Agency’s cybersecurity directorate, said per the report: “It was a moment where I think a lot of America woke up to the reality that the cyber realm and the physical realm are becoming increasingly intertwined.”

That attack was followed by the ransomware attack that led meat processor JBS USA to shut down some operations, PYMNTS reported.

U.S. authorities have pointed to Russian gangs as a source of at least some of the attacks, and Mandia said U.S. President Joe Biden should use a planned June 16 summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin to insist on a crackdown, according to WSJ.

Biden could use levers, such as new sanctions, Mandia said, per WSJ, adding: “You gotta pull every lever on this one. We have to impose repercussions and costs.”

While companies have been paying ransom in the millions of dollars to regain access to files, some organizations are not in positions to do so, WSJ reported, citing as an example of one that didn’t the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency. CEO Terry A’Hearn told the WSJ audience per the report that it has taken more than five months since the assault to rebuild systems, and they still aren’t fully operational.

Johnson & Johnson Chief Information Security Officer Marene Allison said at the event per WSJ: “You will see attacks, whether it be through your email, through your systems, through your network, all day long. Twenty-four by seven from around the world.”

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