FBI Director Christopher Wray has compared the recent ransomware hacks on high-profile American projects like Colonial Pipeline, JBS USA and SolarWinds to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in which about 3,000 Americans lost their lives.
“There are a lot of parallels, there’s a lot of importance, and a lot of focus by us on disruption and prevention,” Wray told The Wall Street Journal in an article published on Friday. “There’s a shared responsibility, not just across government agencies but across the private sector and even the average American.”
Wray said that the FBI is investigating about 100 types of ransomware attacks, claiming that Russia is behind many of them.
“Time and time again, a huge portion of those traced back to actors in Russia,” he said. “And so, if the Russian government wants to show that it’s serious about this issue, there’s a lot of room for them to demonstrate some real progress that we’re not seeing right now.”
This comes amid a string of cyberattacks that have targeted systems operated by both the US federal government and private companies.
This week, a ransomware attack on JBS USA, the largest supplier of beef in the nation, forced all its American facilities to shut down for a day.
Last month, Colonial Pipeline, which supplies around 45 percent of the East Coast's fuel supply, shut down its operations after a ransomware attack which Washington claimed was carried out by a Russian-based group. The company chose to pay the hackers the equivalent of $4.4 million in Bitcoin to receive keys to decrypt their systems.
And, the recent hack of information technology company SolarWinds allegedly gave access to thousands of companies and government offices that used its products.
The Biden administration has accused Russia of harboring hackers who it said were behind the recent attacks.
The White House said President Joe Biden will raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his summit with him this month.
FBI chief Wray described the escalating attacks as a growing national security threat to America.
“The scale of this problem is one that I think the country has to come to terms with,” he told the Journal.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday said a review is underway involving building an international coalition to confront ransomware, expanding cryptocurrency analysis, disrupting ransomware infrastructure and reviewing current policies.
“We know that the ransomware threat is urgent, it’s complex and it’s been increasing over the last several years, and you know it feels new to us over the last few weeks, but it has been increasing rapidly all over the world over the last several years,” Psaki told reporters at the White House.
“That review is ongoing internally with our national security team, and we’ll assess what additional needs might be needed,” she added.