White House says 'no company is safe from being targeted by ransomware'

"All organizations must recognize that no company is safe from being targeted by ransomware, regardless of size or location," wrote Neuberger.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

In an open letter sent from the White House Thursday, the National Security Council's top cyber official, Anne Neuberger, called upon companies to take the risk of ransomware attacks far more seriously, listing ways these companies can protect themselves.

"All organizations must recognize that no company is safe from being targeted by ransomware, regardless of size or location," wrote Neuberger. "We urge you to take ransomware crime seriously and ensure your corporate cyber defense match the threat."

The letter comes just days after JBS Foods, the world’s largest meat supplier, was reportedly hit with a cyberattack from what the FBI believes to be Russian hackers. JBS said late Wednesday that it expects to be operating near full capacity by Thursday, CNN reports.

Neuberger's letter, according to a White House official, was prompted by the shift from data theft to disrupting critical services in ransomware attacks that have been spiking under the Biden administration.

"The most important takeaway from the recent spate of ransomware attacks on US, Irish, German and other organizations around the world is that companies that view ransomware as a threat to their core business operations rather than a simple risk of data theft will react and recover more effectively," Neuberger said. She urged those companies to "immediately convene their leadership teams" to assess risk exposure.

A page from the memo, shared by Philip Wegmann, showcases steps that Neuberger urges companies to take to prevent ransomware attacks.

Neuberger urged companies to "backup your data, system images, and configurations, regularly test them, and keep the backups offline," "update and patch systems regularly," "test your incident response plan," "check your security team’s work," and "segment your networks" to prevent the risk of ransomware attacks.

The JBS USA ransomware attack follows closely on the heels of the Colonial Pipeline Company ransomware attack earlier last month, with both incidents highlighting how these attacks can severely disrupt critical industries across America.

Chris Butera, head of Threat Hunting for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said that "The ransomware actors have become more brazen. They're started to exfiltrate data and try to extort payments," with Butera adding that he expects to "continue to see" the ransomware attacks happen and urged, as part of the US government's official stance, that these companies not to pay the ransoms.

Former CIA officer Bryan Dean Wright told The Daily Wire that Russians were launching these cyberattacks against US industries for many reasons, but primarily to make life difficult for America.

"Putin uses proxy forces — like Russian crime syndicates or armed mercenaries — to engage in low grade, asymmetrical warfare," Dean said. "Some say this gives him plausible deniability but that’s only marginally true. He knows we know, and he doesn't care."

In a White House press conference Wednesday, Jen Psaki was asked why there has been a rise in ransomware attacks under President Biden's leadership, placed the blame on the private companies and their security systems.

"First I would say these are private sector entities, who have a responsibility to put in place measures to protect their own cyber security. As is relates to why criminal actors are taking action against private sector entities? I don't think I'm the right one to speak to that," Psaki replied.

When pressed further by Peter Doocy, Psaki said "I think you could go track down those cyber criminals in Russia and have a good chat with them."


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