Just over the past month, businesses in the United States and within have succumbed to several high-profile ransomware attacks. Most of these attacks were preventable, with one targeting the world’s largest meatpacker, JBS Foods, and another one being iConstituent, a vendor that assists members of Congress with constituent services.

As if ransomware attacks aren’t surprising enough in themselves, over the past month, we’ve seen recorded ransom demands by US companies.

In fact, over the past 24 hours, we have learned that JBS Foods has paid a ransom of approximately $11 million. According to the chief executive officer of its US division, this payment was necessary to prevent further plant disruptions and limit its potential impact on the US supply chain.

The ransomware attack on JBS Foods, which prompted it to shut down five of its largest beef processing plants in the United States, is similar to the ransomware attack that halted Colonial Pipeline’s operations. After causing drivers to panic at the pump for nearly a week, the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack resulted in a $4.4 million ransom payment to perpetrators.

JBS paid $11 million to solve ransomware attack

Combining these attacks with the recent revelation that cybercriminals have successfully attacked iConstuent, but blocked the ability of Congressional offices to communicate with their constituents, underscores the threat ransomware threatens US infrastructure and our national security. does.

Ransomware has long been a threat to the United States. For the first time on US soil in September 2013, attacks infected home computers and encrypted personal photos and videos. The ransom was hundreds of dollars, and when paid, users were highly likely to get their information back.

However, since first stepping into the United States, ransomware attacks have rapidly evolved in complexity and frequency and are now targeting our airports, healthcare facilities, small businesses and local governments instead. We are witnessing cybercriminals violating federal agencies and also in the case of JBS Foods shutting down operations requiring critical infrastructure.

As a result of the ongoing cyber threats to our country, President Biden recently announced the launch of a public-private task force called an Action Plan for an Aggressive and Comprehensive Whole-Government Response to Cyber ​​Security Threats including Ransomware Designed to analyze and develop. .

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In the 81-page report released by the task force, it noted that there is “no silver bullet” in dealing with these types of cyber attacks. This fact is well known. However, in my experience as a cyber security professional for 30+ years, there are actually three simple steps that can be taken by companies and governments alike to prevent cyberattacks from being successful.

First, it starts with the mindset. The government must focus its attention on prevention so that there is a complementary response. For example, in a presidential executive order issued last month, he outlined a number of strategies aimed at reducing the ransomware threat. However, the executive order falls short of any preventive measures – and that is a big mistake. Although prevention may not be the only silver bullet, prevention tools are an important part of the larger puzzle.

Justice Department will equate terrorism to ransomware attacks

That said, most important with regard to preventive tools, it is imperative that IT administrators deploy the use of the Application Permission List. This approach, supported by the US Department of Homeland Security and the National Institute of Standards of Technology, eliminates the possibility of falling victim to ransomware. It only allows programs that are known to run on a computer or network and prevents all unknown programs from running and infecting a device or network.

Second, an authentication strategy is important. There are simple authentication strategies such as issuing passwords to your employees rather than allowing them to choose their own. If this is not an option, IT administrators should mandate the use of a password manager that provides users with their passwords.

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By issuing passwords or mandating the use of a password manager, you eliminate the risk of users using the same password for their work and personal accounts. This greatly reduces the risk of a password being hacked and a cybercriminal gaining access to a corporate or government network.

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Lastly, transparency is important. The cyber security industry is no different from any other industry. There are good products and bad products. This process is failing in cyber security due to ambiguity. For example, in the Colonial Pipeline, JBS Foods and iConstituent attacks, it is never disclosed which antivirus allowed these ransomware attacks to enter and spread the network.

The public needs this important information to make better cybersecurity choices, and these vendors should be required to disclose how the attack happened to prevent future attacks from being repeated.

The truth is that these attacks are not going to stop. As Ohio Senator Rob Portman said during a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing, “no one is safe from these attacks.”

Negotiations, diplomacy, sanctions and other government actions take time. At the same time, cyber criminals are taking continuous action. If we really want an effective and immediate response to business, education, medical institutions, government, and critical infrastructure, prevention, and hacking of the above steps are an important part of the solution. Spending more time waiting will only lead to more ransomware attacks on US soil.

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