Cyberattacks are an emerging enemy against the US that need to be prevented



Alexander Sitnikov

An alarming surge of companies in the United States, including those most essential to infrastructure, along with the government itself, has been exposed to malicious cyberattacks in recent years — and the government needs to be doing more

One of these cyberattacks is known as ransomware, though there are many other types of subtle yet impactful malware.

Due to the financial and national security dangers posed by these cyberattacks, the government and vulnerable companies must spend more to prevent these attacks from happening.

The government should continue to increase cybersecurity spending, as it is expected to do in 2021. Companies that have confidential, valuable files and have not yet heavily secured their systems should increase spending on cybersecurity as well, like the Bank of America has done.

Ransomware can happen through several possible ways, ranging from simple phishing spam to complex exploitation of security holes that allow the hackers to infect computers without needing to trick their users.

These infections can then spread throughout connected company computers without being detected, even by some sophisticated antivirus software. The hackers encrypt computer files so that they cannot be accessed, and then the victims must pay a high, digitally-untraceable ransom to get a unique decryption key to unlock the files.

These ransomware attacks can be problematic as many businesses, companies, schools and government agencies have vulnerable systems that hackers will specifically target because they know that these institutions can afford and are willing to pay high ransoms to continue normal functioning.

No device can be permanently 100% secure from cyberattacks, but there are ways to reduce the risk and close security holes — through more funding for cybersecurity.

Hiring more cybersecurity experts and white-hat hackers would be beneficial in the long term for companies, as they will find the most possible security holes in the companies’ system and find solutions for them so that they are sufficiently protected.

Educating students and workers about basic cybersecurity would also help to reduce the number of victims that fall prey to cyberattacks, as hackers are becoming more sophisticated.

“The United States suffered 65,000 ransomware attacks last year – or over seven an hour. And it will likely get worse,” NPR reported.

One recent event that people may be familiar with is the Colonial Pipeline ransomware hack, which led to a lot of panic on the East Coast over the fuel supply.

The company’s CEO ultimately paid $4.4 million worth of difficult-to-trace cryptocurrency to the hackers to restore the service because, otherwise, the situation would have become more consequential for the country. Although the government eventually recovered most of the ransom payment, it was a rare occasion and cannot be done with every cyberattack.

When ransomware hackers can cause panic to tens of millions of Americans and greatly disrupt the country’s infrastructure and economy, it is time to take cybersecurity more seriously.

Companies and the government have not been taking the threat very seriously until recently. Some have even regarded these attacks as “cyber terrorism.”

Ransomware is not the only consequential cyber threat, as seen by the 2020 federal government data breach by a Russian government-backed group that attacked major firms like Microsoft and SolarWinds.

President Joe Biden’s administration has correctly vowed to combat cyberattacks and bring the attackers to justice.

The issue with that, though, is that many of the hackers are from foreign countries, especially Russia and China, so it is harder to bring them to justice even if their identities are discovered.

The United States must pressure countries that provide a safe harbor for hackers, like Russia, to form mutual international agreements to extradite cybercriminals to bring them to justice.

Ransomware and other harmful cyberattacks should not be ignored since they can become more problematic as hackers become more advanced in the future, giving them the potential to disrupt the United States infrastructure to a greater extent than ever seen before.

If these attacks continue to be successful, cybercriminals will become more encouraged to continue posing a threat to the economy and national security. Cybersecurity defense must be given an increased priority in government and company spending as preemptive measures against devastating cyberattacks.