Incomplete data from ransomware victims leave lawmakers concerned where attacks stand

President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin met over the summer to discuss how to end ransomware attacks launched by Russian hackers. Five months later, lawmakers are uncertain whether the attacks have subsided because there is incomplete data from the private companies being targeted, The Hill reported Nov. 19.

Eight things to know:

  1. During the meeting, President Biden gave Mr. Putin a list of 16 types of U.S. critical infrastructures that cannot be attacked without risk of retaliation — including healthcare and public health. 

  2. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., chair of the House Homeland Security Intelligence and Counterterrorism Subcommittee, said Nov. 17 at a hearing that "if the United States knew that criminal actors were emanating from our soil and attacking another country, we would act, and I don’t see any evidence that Russia is actually helping us on this score," The Hill reported.

  3. Lawmakers are concerned that federal agencies have released conflicting information about the state of ransomware attacks following the meeting, according to the report. National Cyber Director Chris Inglis said Nov. 3 during a House Homeland Security Committee meeting that there has been a "discernible decrease" in Russian ransomware attacks.

  4. However, on Nov. 4, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said "we have not seen a material change in the landscape," The Hill reported.

  5. The FBI reported similar results. Bryan Vorndran, assistant director of the bureau's cyber division, told the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Nov. 16 that "from an FBI perspective, we have not seen a decrease in ransomware attacks in the past couple of months originating from Russia." He asked that lawmakers understand that law enforcement agencies have incomplete data, The Hill reported.

  6. Robert Silvers, undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Strategy, Policy and Plans, testified that he couldn't provide definitive metrics on Russia-linked attacks because there is a lack of transparency in the private sector.

    "It’s one thing to say we are going to take action and to demonstrate strength, it’s another thing to actually have the data to back it up," Ms. Slotkin said.

  7. Some lawmakers accused Russia of having the power to shut down these attacks but chooses not to, The Hill reported.

    "At what point is this a declaration of war, a declaration that we cannot put up with?" Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., asked during a Nov. 16 House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing.

  8. Russian hackers have been linked to several high-profile ransomware attacks. The Justice Department on Nov. 8 charged one Russian man and one Ukranian man in connection with the deployment of REvil ransomware attacks on the U.S. government as well as businesses. The REvil gang itself has been connected to several high-profile ransomware attacks, including those on Las Vegas-based University Medical Center and IT security management software company Kaseya.

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