FBI Director Christopher Wray said the agency is investigating about 100 different types of ransomware, many of which trace back to actors in Russia, and compared the current spate of cyberattacks with the challenge posed by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, reports the Wall Street Journal. Wray’s comments come as senior Biden administration officials have characterized ransomware as an urgent national-security threat and said they are looking at ways to disrupt the criminal ecosystem that supports the booming industry. Each of the 100 different malicious software variants are responsible for multiple ransomware attacks in the U.S. Complaints to the FBI and reports from the private sector show ransomware incidents have tripled in the past year. “The scale of this problem is one that I think the country has to come to terms with,” said Wray.
Meanwhile, NPR reports that the FBI attributed the attack on Brazil-based meat processor JBS SA to REvil, a Russian-speaking gang that has made some of the largest ransomware demands on record in recent months. In October, a REvil representative who goes by the handle “UNKN” said in an interview published online that the agriculture sector would now be a main target for the syndicate. REvil also threatened to auction off sensitive stolen data from victims who refused to pay it. While there is no evidence Russia benefits financially from ransomware crime — which has hit health care, education and state and local governments especially hard during the pandemic — U.S. officials say its practitioners have sometimes worked for Kremlin security services. Cybersecurity experts said the attacks targeting critical sectors of the U.S. economy are evidence that industry hasn’t been taking years of repeated warnings seriously.