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Tuesday saw various cryptocurrencies continuing to trend down, as it looks like the US regulators will be tightening their oversight of the digital currencies. On Monday the Justice Department said that it had seized around $2.3 million worth of bitcoins paid by Colonial Pipeline to hackers whose attack crippled the company and caused massive disruption in the East Coast fuel pipeline last month.
FBI director Christopher Wray has said there are a lot of parallels between the ransomware threat and the threat of terrorism that caused the 9/11 tragedy. The Biden administration is now looking at “all of the options” to defend the US against the ransomware threat.
It is not just the energy sector. Recent victims range from government agencies and a Florida water system to schools, healthcare institutions and a ferry service. When a major meat processor was attacked it put pressure on supplies across the country.
Why do institutions pay up? Colonial Pipeline would have spent many times the $2.3 million it paid the hackers, to replace all the affected infrastructure. What are the vulnerabilities? In a world where software code is an integral part of various systems, any neglect in strengthening it can prove tragically costly.
But not all fixes are complex. The Colonial Pipeline hack was mounted through an employee still using single-factor authentication. In India not only has the appropriate risk mitigation been weak even as digitalisation marches fast, especially through the pandemic, our countering abilities cannot compare to the US. Growing these cybersecurity capabilities, in partnership with technologically sophisticated democracies, should be a priority. Better safe than sorry.