White House Warns Businesses to Act Now on Ransomware Defenses

Last week, Biden acted through an executive order in an effort to force some of those changes into the pipeline industry, using the Transportation Security Administration’s supervisory powers over the pipeline industry.

However, in the absence of comprehensive government mandates, cybersecurity practices have been voluntary. The result is that, in fact, many companies and other organizations have been forced to fend for themselves. And recent ransomware attacks have exposed the extent to which American cities, municipal governments, police departments, and even the ferry service between Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket have failed to erect enough defenses.

The latest attack on one of the world’s largest beef suppliers, JBS, for example, was carried out by a Russian group known as REvil, which has had great success entering companies using very simple means. The group typically gains access to large corporations through a combination of email phishing, in which it sends an employee an email tricking them into entering a password or clicking a malicious link, and exploiting the slowness. from a company to patch the software.

REvil cybercriminals will often search for and exploit vulnerable computer servers or break through a known flaw in Pulse Secure security devices, called a VPN or virtual private network, that companies use in an effort to protect their data. The flaw was detected a year ago after a series of cyberattacks by Chinese hackers.

However, a year later, many companies have still forgotten to run the patch, essentially leaving a window open to their systems.

In the White House memo, titled “What We Urge You To Do Now,” Ms. Neuberger asked companies to focus on the basics. One step is multi-factor authentication, a process that forces employees to enter a second one-time password from their phone, or a security token, when they log in from an unrecognized device.

He encouraged them to regularly back up data and separate those backup systems from the rest of their networks so that cybercriminals cannot easily find them. He urged companies to hire firms to perform “penetration tests,” essentially simulations in which an attack on a company’s systems is simulated, to find vulnerabilities. And Ms. Neuberger asked them to think ahead about how they would react if their networks and networks were held hostage with ransomware.

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