White House gathers tech, education, banking leaders for cyber meeting

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The Biden administration will convene more than two dozen leaders of key groups across a variety of fields at the White House for a cybersecurity meeting on Wednesday intended to serve as a “call to action” to address escalating cyber threats. 

A senior administration official told reporters that participants at the meeting with President Biden will include the CEOs of tech companies such as Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, IBM and Microsoft, along with the heads of major financial institutions such as Bank of America and JPMorgan.

Several energy and water companies will also be included, with the leaders of Duke Energy, PG&E and Southern Company set to attend. Officials from the insurance and education sectors participating include the leaders of insurance group Travelers and from the University of Texas system.

“Tomorrow is a call to action, the federal government cannot solve this complex and international challenge alone, and we can’t do it overnight,” the senior official told reporters Tuesday. “We are sincere when we say that cybersecurity is a matter of national security, the public and private sectors must meet this moment together, and the American people are counting on us. Tomorrow is really an important opportunity to drive that forward.”

Multiple key top administration officials will lead breakout sessions with the industry leaders following an initial meeting with Biden. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Small Business Administration Administrator Isabel Guzman and national security adviser Jake Sullivan are among those slated to attend.

Other officials expected to participate in the meeting include top White House officials such as National Cyber Director Chris Inglis, along with Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly and Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology.

The meeting will wrap up sometime Wednesday afternoon, after which the senior administration official said a “readout” would be provided to Biden and a series of “concrete” steps would be announced.

“You will definitely be seeing a set of concrete announcements, also by government, not just by private sector folks, we need both to be successful,” the official said, separately noting that “technology and talent” would be key focuses of these announcements.

The meeting comes on the heels of months of major cybersecurity incidents. These have included the SolarWinds hack, discovered in December, which involved Russian government-backed hackers compromising nine federal agencies and 100 private sector groups for much of 2020. Biden levied sanctions on Russia for the attack in April. 

In addition, ransomware attacks have become an increasing concern during the past year, with attacks on government organizations, hospitals and schools increasingly common. 

High-profile ransomware attacks on Colonial Pipeline, meat producer JBS USA and software company Kaseya in recent months have been linked to Russian-based cybercriminal groups. Biden discussed cybersecurity with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their in-person summit in Geneva in June.

The senior administration official told reporters Tuesday that ransomware attacks would be a topic of discussion, but that participants hoped to look more into “root causes” of cyberattacks and what both government and the private sector can do to combat these threats. 

“This won’t be his last engagement with the private sector on cybersecurity,” the official said of Biden.

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas biden administration cybersecurity Gina Raimondo Isabel Guzman Jake Sullivan Jennifer Granholm Joe Biden Vladimir Putin

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