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Top Cybersecurity Official Has a Warning About Ransomware Attacks

AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File

A top cybersecurity official said Wednesday that ransomware attacks against critical industries in the U.S., such as those against Colonial Pipeline and JBS, have become “more brazen” and warned they are likely to continue.

Chris Butera, head of Threat Hunting for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said during a virtual summit on Wednesday that ransomware actors have “started to exfiltrate data and try to extort payments.”

“I do think we will continue to see that happen," Butera added. 

Earlier this week a ransomware attack by Russian actors targeted the world’s largest meat producer, JBS, shutting down several of the Brazil-based company’s U.S. meat plants. Weeks earlier, a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline caused gas shortages across the East Coast. The company decided to pay the ransom, though Butera said the government “does not advocate” doing so. 

"But we do understand that it is a significant, difficult decision for some of these organizations when they are put under the gun to try to manage their business operations during these times,” he added. 

When White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked why these ransomware attacks appear to be on the rise under President Biden, she told the reporter to ask the criminals. 

“On the JBS hack, these hackers based in Russia have disrupted American gas supplies and American meat supplies,” Fox News’s Peter Doocy said. “Why do you think that these ransomware attacks have been rising since President Biden took office?”

“Well, first, I would say these are private sector entities who have a responsibility to put in place measures to protect their own cybersecurity,” Psaki responded. “As it relates to why criminal actors are taking actions against private sector entities, I don’t think I’m the right one to speak to that.”

“So, a total coincidence?” Doocy wondered.

“I think you could certainly go track down those cyber criminals in Russia and have a good chat with them,” Psaki responded.

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