Warner: Debate on making it illegal to pay ransoms ‘worth having’

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.)
Greg Nash

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Sunday that it is worth debating whether to make paying ransoms illegal after cyberattacks disrupted operations at energy and meat production firms in the U.S.

“I’m not sure what the answer is at this point,” Warner said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Warner also stressed “transparency” in any payments companies make to cyber criminals.

“We need more transparency because right now what’s happening around ransomware, not only are the companies often not reporting that they are attacked, but they’re not reporting the ransomware payments,” he said.

A cyberattack last week forced JBS USA to shutter several meat production plants across the country, drawing comparisons to a similar attack on Colonial Pipeline in May.

Last month, President Biden said a criminal group based in Russia was responsible for the attack on the Colonial Pipeline, and the White House said last Tuesday that the cyberattack on JBS USA likely originated from Russia.

The CEO of Colonial Pipeline confirmed publicly that the company paid the hackers behind the attack so it could regain access to its systems.

Warner during the NBC interview on Sunday also said that he is “really worried” about a mass cyberattack from Russia.

“Our economy [could] come to a halt,” he added.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a separate interview on Sunday that she would support a ban on companies paying ransoms for cyberattacks.

“I think we need to send this strong message that paying a ransomware only exacerbates and accelerates the problem. You are encouraging the bad actors,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

–Updated at 11:17 a.m.

Tags Colonial Pipeline cybersecurity JBS USA Jennifer Granholm Joe Biden Mark Warner Ransomware
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