Are ransomware attacks the new pandemic?
Ransomware attacks are the new pandemic, threatening the US economy, commerce, and the flow of goods to market. First, there was the Colonial Pipeline shutdown, then JBS USA. However, those were not even close to being the first; ransomware attacks have been around for decades.
Some of the earliest attacks were in healthcare facilities, in part due to their reliance on hard-to-update IT infrastructure and vulnerable operating systems as well as the critical and even life-threatening impact of a network outage in a hospital. Over the years, ransomware attacks have shown up in TV episodes and received broad coverage in the media.
If this is the case, why is the federal government only now weighing in on addressing these attacks? Three factors come to mind:
- The impact on the US economy and literal flow of goods (gas and meat are just the latest) at this critical juncture, just as the US economy is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic
- The weaponization of ransomware attacks and the involvement of foreign governments in the disruption of the economy and the escalation of attacks
- A general erosion of confidence in the cybersecurity of IT infrastructure, on which so much of daily life now depends
The SolarWinds attack — while not a ransomware attack — demonstrated the fragility of our IT infrastructure and the interdependencies of our networks. Additionally, if you recall the ice storm that disrupted the electric grid and water supplies in Texas and Mississippi early this year, we clearly see the impact of outages to our critical infrastructure. Couple these observations with the recognition that adversarial nation-state governments are now harnessing software supply chain and ransomware attacks to methodically undermine confidence in and actual operations of the US economy, power, water, and financial systems.
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