DHS Steps Up Ransomware Prevention Strategy

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) cybersecurity grants will be bumped up by $25 million across the U.S. as part of a wide initiative to derail ransomware, new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in keynote remarks at the second annual President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition.

DHS is also looking at additional cyber grants through the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to help state and local governments combat cyber attacks. Last week, Majorkas unveiled DHS’ cybersecurity strategy to strengthen ties with the private sector, direct more funding to build out cybersecurity infrastructure, and hire personnel to enact a whole-of-government approach to defending against hackers.

Mayorkas has also pledged to:

  • Reinforce CISA’s new ransomware public awareness campaign to encourage public and private sector organizations to take action to mitigate ransomware risk.
  • Leverage the U.S. Secret Service, through its Cyber Fraud Task Forces, to respond to ransomware incidents and arrest those that engage in this criminal activity.
  • Collaborate with foreign counterparts to strengthen international cybersecurity collaboration.

“The nation’s cybersecurity is only as strong as its weakest link,” Mayorkas said at the virtual competition, The Hill reported. “Looking ahead, it will be critical to ensure that CISA has the resources and capacity to effectively implement its existing and its new authorities.” The President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition is a national cyber competition designed to identify, challenge, and reward the best cybersecurity talent in the federal workforce. The contest began last August with some 1,400 participants and nearly 250 teams and ended on February 25, 2021.

Mayorkas reiterated that DHS will address the spike in ransomware attacks that is hitting government agencies, schools and medical facilities at an accelerated rate during the pandemic with initiatives to step up hiring, diversify the nation's cyber workforce and defend critical infrastructure. “We are currently fighting not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but also an epidemic that is spreading through cyberspace: ransomware,” he said. “Ransomware, tackling it and protecting the weakest link, will require partnering with state, local, tribal and territorial governments and private sector entities across the country. This cross-sector collaboration is the hallmark of DHS’s approach to cybersecurity."

Congressional Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Yvette Clarke (D-NY) last week said they will reintroduce the State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement Act, a bipartisan bill to establish a $400 million grant program to provide funds to help lower-level government agencies erect digital barriers to cyber attacks that failed to be signed into law.

D. Howard Kass

D. Howard Kass is a contributing editor to MSSP Alert. He brings a career in journalism and market research to the role. He has served as CRN News Editor, Dataquest Channel Analyst, and West Coast Senior Contributing Editor at Channelnomics. As the CEO of The Viewpoint Group, he led groundbreaking market research.