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Lawmakers weigh up how to address the menace of ransomware

The Biden Administration could pass a law strengthening cybersecurity measures, and ransomware in particular.

As Covid cases rose, so did hospital hacks in France
Separate ransomware attacks have knocked out computer systems in more than half a dozen French hospitals, forcing them to return to using pen and paper - Copyright AFP Philippe DESMAZES
Separate ransomware attacks have knocked out computer systems in more than half a dozen French hospitals, forcing them to return to using pen and paper - Copyright AFP Philippe DESMAZES

In the U.S.., the Department of Justice (DOJ) is launching a task force dedicated to addressing the growing threat of ransomware. According to a new survey exploring security issues, the Unisys Security Index™, then less than one in three (31 percent) of U.S. citizens are concerned about their data security while working from home during the COVID-19 global health crisis.

Moreover, the survey reveals overall concerns around internet security (including computer viruses and hacking) have plunged 13 points from 2019, despite a significant increase in cyberattacks in 2020. This comes at a time of increased online activity due to remote work and online shopping during the pandemic.

The Unisys Security Index surveyed more than 15,000 consumers in 15 countries, including more than 1,000 in the U.S.

This figure does not square with the escalating rise in cyber-threats, at both the individual and organizational level. Central to this is the expensive fall-out from ransomware. Included among these attacks are high-profile network security incidents like the Russian-backed SolarWinds hacking campaign and the Microsoft Exchange server vulnerabilities that Microsoft has attributed to Chinese hackers.

In relation to this important measure, Tom Patterson, Chief Trust Officer at Unisys, tells Digital Journal,  why this legal and ethical deliberation is of such great importance.

Patterson explains: “The Justice Department has an important role to play in the whole of nation defense against ransomware and other attacks”

This is necessary, not least, due to the extent of the attacks that are taking place globally. Here Patterson adds: “Ransomware is being launched with impunity from criminals around the world, and more needs to be done to change the economics of the attack— to make it more costly to attack than defend. Justice’s legal system has a wide range of capabilities at its disposal to add costs and consequences to those that choose to attack.”

As to how things are developing, Patterson adds that: “The White House’s National Cyber Moonshot and Congress’ Cyber Solarium report have both recommended increasing the consequences for those that launch and support attacks, and the DoJ has a myriad of consequential arrows in its quiver that it can bring to bear”

So, what can be achieved throng the legal review? According to Patterson: “By creating this task force along with experts from national security, law enforcement, and the private sector, the department is approaching this critical problem the right way.”

Patterson remains optimistic, stating: “Acting Deputy Attorney General John Carlin is perfectly situated to lead this new task force with his strong roots in both the department’s capabilities, and with the private sector that is under attack.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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