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FBI Chief: Ransomware Is Our New 9/11

Christopher Wray sees parallels, says the scope of the problem is massive
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 4, 2021 2:12 PM CDT

(Newser) – The shutdown of the Colonial oil pipeline. The crippling of one of the nation's biggest meat producers. If it seems like ransomware attacks are growing more frequent and more threatening, know that the head of the FBI agrees. And in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Christopher Wray drew a headline-making comparison, calling the danger on par with that of the 9/11 attacks. “There are a lot of parallels, there’s a lot of importance, and a lot of focus by us on disruption and prevention,” Wray tells the newspaper. “There’s a shared responsibility, not just across government agencies but across the private sector and even the average American.” The FBI chief revealed that the agency is investigating roughly 100 different types of ransomware—computer code hackers use to hamstring a company's operations until a ransom is paid.

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“Now realizing it can affect them when they’re buying gas at the pump or buying a hamburger—I think there’s a growing awareness now of just how much we’re all in this fight together,” Wray said, referring to Americans. Many of the attacks have been traced to Russia, and Wray said Moscow could play a big role in the global fight by rooting out hackers' safe havens within the country. Politico notes that President Biden has pledged to bring up the issue in his face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin next month in Geneva. Last month, the Justice Department created a national task force to coordinate the response to ransomware attacks around the country. (Colonial has acknowledged it paid a ransom of $4.4 million to get its system back up to speed.)

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