In the wake of recent supply chain disrupting cyberattacks, a senior U.S. Justice Department official told Reuters exclusively that the DOJ is elevating investigations of ransomware attacks to a similar priority as terrorism amid mounting damage caused by cyber criminals.
Internal guidance sent on Thursday to U.S. attorneys' offices across the country said information about ransomware investigations in the field should be centrally coordinated with a recently created task force in Washington.
Overseeing that task force is the DOJ's principal associate deputy attorney general, John Carlin, who said the new process will "ensure we track all ransomware cases regardless of where it may be referred in this country."
The new DOJ guidance specifically refers to the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack as an example of the "growing threat that ransomware and digital extortion pose to the nation."
Last month, a cyber criminal group known as DarkSide, which U.S. authorities said is based in Russia, attacked Colonial Pipeline, locking its systems and causing a shutdown that lasted several days, which led to a spike in gas prices and panic buying in the U.S. Southeast.
The company decided to pay the hackers nearly $5 million to regain access to its systems.
U.S. officials said the Justice Department's decision to push ransomware into this special process illustrates how the issue is being prioritized.
PSAKI: "The president has launched a rapid strategic review to address the increased threat of ransomware."
On Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden had initiated a review of the threat posed by ransomware attacks and said he will discuss the issue of harboring such hackers with Russian President Vladimir Putin when they meet later this month.