The top US tech companies have pledged to invest billions of dollars to strengthen cybersecurity defenses and train skilled workers, the White House announced on Wednesday after President Joe Biden’s private meeting with senior executives.
The Washington meeting was held during a relentless streak of ransomware attacks that targeted critical infrastructure and large corporations, as well as other illicit cyber operations that US authorities have linked to foreign hackers.
The Biden government has urged the private sector to do its part to protect itself against these increasingly sophisticated attacks. In public comments ahead of the meeting, Biden referred to cybersecurity as a “fundamental national security challenge” for the US.
“The reality is that most of our critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector, and the federal government cannot meet this challenge alone,” said Biden. “I invited all of you here today because you have the power, ability and responsibility, I believe, to raise the bar on cybersecurity.”
After the meeting, the White House announced that Google had pledged to invest $10 billion (about INR 74,249 crores) in cybersecurity over the next five years, money intended to help protect the software supply chain and expand programs of zero confidence. The Biden administration sought ways to secure the government’s supply chain after a massive Russian government cyber-espionage campaign that exploited vulnerabilities and gave hackers access to the networks of US government agencies and private companies.
Microsoft, for its part, said it will invest $20 billion (about INR 1.48.475 million) in cybersecurity over the next five years and will make $150 million (about Rs. 1.113 million) available in technical services to help users local governments to update their defenses. IBM plans to train 150,000 people in cybersecurity over three years, Apple said it would develop a new program to help strengthen the technology supply chain, and Amazon said it would provide the public with the same security awareness training it does. to employees.
Top executives from each of these companies were invited to Wednesday’s meeting, as were executives from the financial sector and representatives from the energy, education and insurance sectors. A government initiative that initially supported the cybersecurity defenses of electric utilities has now expanded to focus on natural gas pipelines, the White House said on Wednesday.
While ransomware was an aspect of Wednesday’s meeting, a senior government official who briefed reporters in advance said the goal was much broader, centered on identifying the “root causes of any kind of malicious cyber activity” as well as ways in which the private sector can help strengthen cybersecurity. The official informed reporters on condition of anonymity.
The meeting took place as Biden’s national security team was being consumed by the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the chaotic evacuation of Americans and Afghan citizens. The fact that it remained on the calendar indicates that the government considers cybersecurity a high agenda item, with the government official describing Wednesday’s meeting as a “call to action”.
The wide range of participants underscores how cyber attacks have hit virtually every sector of commerce. In May, for example, hackers associated with a Russian-based cyber gang launched a ransomware attack on a major fuel pipeline in the United States, causing the pipeline to temporarily halt operations. Weeks later, the world’s biggest meat processor, JBS, was hit by an attack by a different group of hackers.
In both cases, companies made multi-million ransom payments in an effort to get back online.
Biden pointed to a summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June on Wednesday when he said he made clear his expectation that Russia would take steps to curb the ransomware gangs because “they know where (the hackers) are and who they are”.
© Thomson Reuters 2021