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With ransomware attacks on the rise, US launches new site to combat the threat

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Rob Engelaar/Getty Images

The US government has a new website that aims to combat the threat of ransomware. Launched Thursday by the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and federal partners, StopRansomware.gov was created to “help private and public organizations mitigate their ransomware risk,” according to a release. 

The site pulls together resources from multiple federal agencies. Individuals and organizations previously had to visit several government websites to locate ransomware guidance, alerts and updates.

“As ransomware attacks continue to rise around the world, businesses and other organizations must prioritize their cybersecurity,” the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, said in the release. “Cyber criminals have targeted critical infrastructure, small businesses, hospitals, police departments, schools and more. These attacks directly impact Americans’ daily lives and the security of our nation.”

Ransomware is a type of malware that hackers use to scramble a computer’s data, making many files and systems unusable. Malicious actors demand ransom in exchange for unlocking the data, and often threaten to sell or leak information if they’re not paid. According to the release, “roughly $350 million in ransom was paid to malicious cyber actors in 2020, a more than 300% increase from the previous year.”  

The announcement follows several notable ransomware attacks in the US. Last month, JBS, one of the country’s biggest meat producers, paid $11 million in bitcoin to cybercriminals who hit the company’s servers. A few weeks prior, Colonial Pipeline, which operates one of the largest US gas pipelines, shelled out $5 million to hackers who’d forced the shutdown of a major petroleum conduit. 

Following the Colonial Pipeline incident, President Joe Biden issued an executive order outlining a number of steps aimed at bolstering the nation’s cybersecurity.

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