Biden, Tech Leaders Eye ‘Concrete Steps’ to Boost Cybersecurity


A White House cybersecurity gathering including Big Tech executives was set Wednesday to unveil steps aimed at improving cybersecurity following high-profile attacks which raised questions about the vulnerability of so-called critical infrastructure.

President Joe Biden and key cabinet officials were to host the chief executives of Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft along with leaders from the finance and utilities sectors, a senior administration official said.

The gathering comes after hacks and data breaches which have targeted a major US oil pipeline, a meatpacking company, and the Microsoft Exchange email system as well as ransomware attacks hitting various sectors.

“You will definitely be seeing a set of concrete announcements,” the official told journalists in a background briefing.

The recent attacks “has created a sense of urgency” and the need to refocus attention of government and the private sector, the official added.

“We want to focus on the root causes of any malicious (cyber) activity,” the official said.

This means ensuring more robust systems of computer software and hardware in both government and industry.

“We need to transition to a system where security is there by default,” the official said.

The latest attacks, which affected Microsoft email servers and the widely deployed SolarWinds security software, raise questions about protecting 16 “critical infrastructure” sectors including energy, utilities, defense, food and manufacturing.

Some analysts have called for tougher sanctions against Russia and other countries accused of harboring cybercriminals. Others have suggested more scrutiny of cryptocurrency which is used by hackers to collect ransomware.

Expected at the meeting were CEOs Sundar Pichai of Google, Andy Jassy of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple and Satya Nadella of Microsoft.

Also invited were the top executives of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and other finance and insurance companies, as well as the heads of water and energy companies and educational organizations.

Government leaders include Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and top cybersecurity advisers.

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© AFP 2020

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