(Reuters) – The Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Wednesday that handling ransomware will be a top priority, highlighting the growing threat posed by data encryption software.
Ransomware, which effectively holds files and networks hostage. unless a payment is made, has steadily climbed to the top of the US security agenda as the criminals behind it become more and more resources.
Speaking via a webcast, Mayorkas said ransomware was "a particularly serious type of malicious cyber activity" and listed it as the first of several top priorities his department would address online.
Many ransomware operators working outside jurisdictions with a lax approach to cybercrime, and Mayorkas said he would try to hold accountable "Governments that do not use all their authority to stop the culprits."
Mr Mayorkas said the government would try to disrupt not only those launching ransomware operations but also "the marketplaces that enable them." Mayorkas did not say so explicitly, but a DHS official said the reference was to underground forums that help cybercriminals
Earlier in his address, Mayorkas presented an ambitious role for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, DHS's cyber arm, saying the agency would "quarterback" the US government's digital defense and act as a "Reliable interlocutor" between business leaders and government employees. US government engagement with cybersecurity industry, he said.