Cybersecurity experts condemned President Joe Biden‘s administration after senior officials rejected the FBI’s advice not to allow private companies to negotiate with ransomware demands, the Daily Mail reported.
Specialists in cybersecurity argue that the White House’s decision will lead to an increase in ransomware incidents because of the lure of corporate money.
White House official and deputy national security adviser Anne Neuberger addressed the issue on Monday.
“We recognize that victims of cyberattacks often face a very difficult situation,” she said. “And they have to just balance off, in the cost–benefit, when they have no choice with regard to paying a ransom.”
The FBI identified the group behind the weekend attack on Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline as DarkSide, an international crime syndicate that touts its “wealth distribution” principles.
The group is said to avoid targeting former Soviet-bloc nations, offering a potential window into its ulterior agenda.
Nonetheless, the Biden administration, which is known to have its own energy interests in Soviet-bloc nations like Ukraine, downplayed the notion of international cyber-terrorism as a motive for the hack.
Neuberger signaled that the company would be on its own when it came to negotiating with the hackers over their demands.
“Typically that is a private-sector decision and the administration has not offered further advice at this time,” she said.
The administration’s stance, however, is notably at odds with FBI’s published guidelines on dealing with such matters.
“Paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee you or your organization will get any data back,” the FBI website reads. “It also encourages perpetrators target more victims and offers an incentive for others to get involved in this type of illegal activity.”
Other cybersecurity specialists said Biden’s new policy will make crime not only permissible, but profitable.
Chris Krebs, the former director of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, characterized it as a “national security” threat during an appearance on CNBC Monday.
Jim Carafano, a national security expert, said he was “gobsmacked” by the Biden administration’s reckless response.
“This is a very risk averse administration that doesn’t want to get deeply bogged down in a lot of things that distract from its domestic agenda,” he said. “For them to take ownership of this pipeline issue would make it their problem.”
Further, hackers could steal data before selling it back, defeating the purpose of paying a ransom altogether.
“It may be something that has to be done in practice—but to say it live was ridiculous. Absolute stupidity,” said Jim Knight of Digital Warfare Corp.
With the US economy already fearing turmoil due to high unemployment and rising inflation from Biden’s multi-trillion-dollar spending sprees, the attack is bound to inflict serious pain.
The pipeline, which was temporarily forced to shut down its operations, is estimated to deliver 45% of the fuel consumed on the East Coast.
On top of the economic impact on already rising gas prices, the shutdown raises the specter of fuel shortages unseen in America since the 1970s, during the Carter Administration’s standoff with Iran amid the country’s Islamic-fundamentalist revolution.
As of Tuesday, gas stations throughout the southeast corridor already were reporting shortages, and several governors planned to declare a state of emergency.
Headline USA’s Ben Sellers contributed to this report.