Legislation planned as another weapon against ransomware

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Senior US senators plan legislation to fight ransomware attacks on American infrastructure sanctioning countries harbouring cyber criminals, as well as strengthening protection against attacks.

Senators Marco Rubio, Republican vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Democrat Dianne Feinstein, a senior member of the intelligence and judiciary committees, plan to introduce the “Sanction and Stop Ransomware Act”.

According to a copy of the bill seen by Reuters, it would require development of cybersecurity standards for critical infrastructure, tighten regulation of cryptocurrency – often demanded as ransom – and direct the State Department and intelligence community to designate as a “state sponsor of ransomware” any country deemed to support ransomware demand schemes.

The threat of ransomware attacks against US infrastructure came home to Americans on the east coast when an attack against Colonial Pipeline in May saw widespread shortages at gas stations.

The Justice Department helped the company recover $2.3 million in cryptocurrency ransom it paid to hackers.

About $350 million in ransom was paid to cyber criminals in 2020, a more than 300% increase from the previous year, the department said.

President Joe Biden last month warned if the US ended up in a “real shooting war” with a major power it could be the result of a significant cyberattack, highlighting what Washington sees as a growing threat from hackers in Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.