Colonial Pipeline, which supplies roughly half of all fuel to the US East Cost, had its infrastructure hacked in a DarkSide ransomware attack last week. As the company had to suspend operations for several days, US gas prices grew on uncertainty and caused massive panic-buying, prompting the government to intervene.
"Protecting the American people and companies against ransomware must be one of our top priorities as a nation. We can no longer look the other way and we cannot treat ransomware as simply a nuisance. This latest attack should serve as a clarion call for organizations across the country to shore up their cyber defenses and get ahead of future threats," Mayorkas and Raimondo said in a joint op-ed for CNBC published on Friday.
According to the officials, ransomware attacks over the past few months have targeted not only businesses but also hospitals in a number of states, police and sheriffs' offices, schools and local governments. A recent report by Ransomware Task Force cybersecurity experts indicated that some $350 million was paid in ransom to attackers in 2020, marking a 300%-increase from the previous year.
The two ministers added that the Biden administration was currently coordinating a whole-of-government strategy aimed at increasing resilience, disrupting and investigating ransomware networks, and holding perpetrators accountable.
The secretaries promised to increase their respective departments' collaboration with the private sector in the coming weeks, as well as to explore new initiatives to support businesses, healthcare systems, and local governments.