Chris Butera, the head of Threat Hunting at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, has an ominous warning about ransomware attacks of the sort that we have seen afflict the colonial pipeline and the meat industry.
He says that things are probably about to get a whole lot worse.
Attacks of this sort, while always a danger and occasionally a reality, appear to have become both more frequent and more damaging under the Biden presidency.
As Butera put it recently, “The ransomware actors have become more brazen. They’ve started to exfiltrate data and try to extort payments.”
Easy Prey for Hackers?
A massive ransomware attack made enormous waves all over the country when it struck the Colonial Pipeline, a gigantic pipeline that supplies and oil and gas to about 45% of the east coast of the United States.
While coping with and recovering from the attack, the pipeline had to shut down for several days, causing gas shortages all over the country.
It is said that a group of Russian hackers were responsible for the attack. The source of this claim, however, has been the FBI and a group of other intelligence agencies. Given the recent track records of these organizations and the fact that no direct evidence has yet been shown of Russian guilt, however, this claim is at least somewhat open to doubt.
Moreover, as independent journalist Ben Swann has revealed in a recent report on the Colonial Pipeline, it seems that the hackers were only ever able to penetrate the billing department — not the pipeline’s critical infrastructure.
This would explain why the hackers demanded such a paltry ransom — less than $5 million — despite supposedly crippling a massive energy resource.
In fact, it seems that in the Colonial case, it was Colonial’s own management that shut down the pipeline, presumably out of fear that the hackers may have made a significant breach.
Regardless, there appears also to have been another ransomware hack that has affected the meat industry, hampered the ability of suppliers to distribute meat around the country and sent meat prices soaring. There have also recently been reported hacks affecting both the insurance industry and the transportation industry.
When questioned recently on this matter, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that private companies have a responsibility to defend themselves from cyberattacks.
When asked why these attacks seem to be increasing under Biden’s presidency, she snidely remarked that the alleged perpetrators in Russia should be asked that question.
Again, however, there is as yet no direct evidence that any Russian group is truly responsible for any of these hacks. This is simply being asserted by U.S. intelligence agencies, and those agencies have not been willing to share with the public the intelligence that led them to draw that conclusion.
This is not to say that Russians are not responsible. It’s only to say that we don’t know the full truth about why these hacks happened and that U.S. intelligence has fabricated claims about Russia in the past.
In any event, the fact that a top cybersecurity official like Butera seems to believe that more ransomware attacks are on the horizon is ominous.