FBI Director Compares Ransomware Cyberattacks To 9/11

By Jason Hall

June 4, 2021

FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed the agency is investigating about 100 different types of ransomware and even compared the cyberattacks response with the challenge posed by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“There are a lot of parallels, there’s a lot of importance, and a lot of focus by us on disruption and prevention,” Mr. Wray said in an interview on Thursday via the Wall Street Journal. “There’s a shared responsibility, not just across government agencies but across the private sector and even the average American.”

The comments were among Wray's first publicly since two recent ransomware attacks targeted the U.S. meat and oil-and-gas industries, which senior officials in President Joe Biden's administration have characterized as an urgent national security threat.

Ransomware is malware that holds the victim's information at ransom and prevents the user from accessing files, databases or applications, usually leading to a demand of payment for their release, typically through digital currency such as bitcoin.

Wray said each of the 100 various types of ransomware being investigated by the FBI is responsible for attacks on the U.S.

Earlier this week, the world's largest meat processor, JBS SA, was held hostage by hackers, just weeks after an essential pipeline responsible for bringing gasoline to parts of the East Coast was forced to pay about $4.4 million to regain controls of its operations and restore service following a ransomware cyberattack.

Senior FBI officials have previously compared the rising cyber threats to the response to the 9/11 attacks over the years, but Wray said the recent wave of incidents has magnified the impact the attacks have on all American citizens.

“Now realizing it can affect them when they’re buying gas at the pump or buying a hamburger—I think there’s a growing awareness now of just how much we’re all in this fight together,” Mr. Wray said.

Photo: Getty Images

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