The U.S. Justice Department will elevate the level of investigations and attention it places on terrorism to a similar degree regarding ransomware attacks. The move comes in light of increased ransomware attacks, such as the one on the Colonial Pipeline and other mounting damage caused by cybercriminals.
Internal guidance on Thursday sent a letter to U.S. attorney's offices stating how a newly created task force had been assembled in Washington to combat the problem.
"To ensure we can make necessary connections across national and global cases and investigations, and to allow us to develop a comprehensive picture of the national and economic security threats we face, we must enhance and centralize our internal tracking," said the guidance, according to Reuters.
"It's a specialized process to ensure we track all ransomware cases regardless of where it may be referred in this country, so you can make the connections between actors and work your way up to disrupt the whole chain," said John Carlin, acting deputy attorney general at the Justice Department.
Last month, a cybercriminal group that the U.S. deemed to be working out of Russia broke into a pipeline operator on the East Coast of the U.S., locking its systems and demanding ransom. The hack caused a shutdown that lasted several days, sending gasoline prices higher, and causing panic buying and fuel shortages in the Southeast.
The Colonial Pipeline decided to pay the hackers nearly $5 million to regain access to their systems.
The Justice Department's organization of a task force illustrates how the issue is being prioritized, an official suggested.
"We've used this model around terrorism before, but never with ransomware," Carlin said. In practice, this means that attorneys would be expected to share updated case details and technical information regarding ransomware attacks with leaders in Washington.
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