US general in charge of cybersecurity pledges ‘surge’ to address ransomware attacks

The US has been fending off a wave of cyberattacks in recent years

Helen Elfer
Tuesday 14 September 2021 16:44 EDT
Apple patches a zero-day flaw exploited by Pegasus spyware

The general leading the fight against cyberattacks on America has announced a “surge” to defend against a wave of malicious operations.

In an interview on Tuesday with the Associated Press, General Paul Nakasone said government specialists would be stepping up efforts to gather information about cyberattacks and “impose costs when necessary”.

He told the AP that authorities planned to publicly expose adversarial countries who carry out high-profile attacks on the US and uncover the means by which they were carried out.

“Even six months ago, we probably would have said, ‘Ransomware, that’s criminal activity,’” Mr Nakasone said. “But if it has an impact on a nation, like we’ve seen, then it becomes a national security issue. If it’s a national security issue, then certainly we’re going to surge toward it.”

In July, President Joe Biden pushed Russian President Vladimir Putin to crack down on cyber attackers, telling reporters, “We expect them to act if we give them enough information to act on who that is.”

Serious hacks have compromised sensitive government records and led to the shutdown of energy companies, hospitals and schools in recent times. The SolarWinds espionage campaign in 2020 exposed the emails of 80 per cent of the accounts used by the U.S. attorneys’ offices in New York, while a separate hack of Microsoft email server software in 2021 affected thousands.

Mr Nakasone heads up the National Security Agency and the Pentagon’s US Cyber Command, both of which have been part of a Biden administration strategy to publicly identify those behind attacks.

The White House accused the Russian foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR, of being behind the SolarWinds breach to Russia and blamed the Microsoft attack on hackers affiliated with China’s Ministry of State Security.

Mr Nakasone, who is also in charge of efforts to prevent foreign interference in US elections, said intelligence agencies were “generating insights which will move to sharing information in the not too distant future” about Russia.

Mr Biden said in July that Russia had already attempted a “pure violation of our sovereignty” with efforts to spread disinformation about the 2022 midterm elections.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in