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World

US official warns cyberattacks are 'here to stay'

  • "This is a top priority and all of us in the cabinet and the National Security Council are focused on it and considering all possible consequences."
Updated 06 Jun 2021

WASHINGTON: The US commerce secretary appealed Sunday for vigilance from the private sector in the face of increasingly serious cyberattacks, saying the threat is "here to stay" and may even worsen.

"I think the first thing we have to recognize is this is the reality, and we should assume -- and businesses should assume -- that these attacks are here to stay and if anything will intensify," Gina Raimondo said on ABC's "This Week."

Analysts say the hackers behind a series of recent cyberattacks -- targeting a major US oil pipeline, a global meatpacking giant and even the Irish health service -- are likely based in Russia.

Aides say President Joe Biden will raise the issue during an upcoming European trip, first at a G7 meeting of leading democracies beginning Friday in Britain, then with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on June 16.

Raimondo, asked whether the US should be taking a more aggressive stance on cyberattacks -- even perhaps contemplate military action -- replied that "all options are on the table."

"This is a top priority and all of us in the cabinet and the National Security Council are focused on it and considering all possible consequences."

She added that "we won't stand for a nation supporting or turning a blind eye to a criminal enterprise."

The recent cyberattacks on major targets like the Colonial Pipeline, which brings gasoline to much of the US East Coast, have sharply focused attention on the problem, long bubbling below the surface as companies and government entities have suffered so-called ransomware attacks, often paying ransoms without reporting them.

Mark Warner, a Democrat who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, called Sunday on NBC for greater transparency -- requiring companies to report cyberattacks -- and for the establishment of international norms.

He urged debate on possibly making it illegal for companies to pay ransoms to cyberattackers.

FBI director Christopher Wray recently underscored the severity of the problem, saying there were parallels with the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US by Al-Qaeda, which killed 2,977 people.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, asked on Sunday if US adversaries had the ability to shut down its power grid, told CNN: "Yes, they do. I mean, I think that there are very malign actors who are trying.

"Even as we speak, there are thousands of attacks on all aspects of the energy sector and the private sector generally."