NSA Director Promises ‘Intense’ Crackdown On Foreign Cyber Attacks

National Security Agency Director Gen. Paul Nakasone said he was launching an offensive to crack down on the rising threat of cyber attacks in a Tuesday interview with the Associated Press.

Nakasone told the AP about “an intense focus” among government agencies to improve cyber attack responses and better gather information about cybersecurity threat origins. The general also discussed the NSA’s willingness to “impose costs when necessary,” including tying countries to major hacks and publicizing information on how attacks were carried out.

President Joe Biden prioritized cybersecurity since he took office, taking a number of actions to bolster government and private sector responses to recent hacks. The administration blamed Chinese-sponsored hackers for an attack on Microsoft Exchange’s email service in March, and it pointed to Russian hackers as the source of the SolarWinds hack in December 2020.

Nakasone also touched on the recent string of ransomware attacks that have affected private companies and critical infrastructure, characterizing them as a threat to national security.

“Even six months ago, we probably would have said, ‘Ransomware, that’s criminal activity,’” Nakasone told the AP. “But if it has an impact on a nation, like we’ve seen, then it becomes a national security issue. If it’s a national security issue, then certainly we’re going to surge toward it.”

The Colonial Pipeline attack that shut down a pipeline carrying oil and gas to the East Coast was linked to hackers originating in Russia, while the attack on meatpacker JBS was tied to a Ukrainian cyber crime syndicate.

Nakasone also said that government agencies performed over two dozen operations to combat interference with the 2020 presidential election. In addition to his role at the NSA, Nakasone serves as Commander of the United States Cyber Command and Chief of the Central Security Service.

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