Biden urges tech moguls to help fight cybersecurity threat

US President Joe Biden met with the country’s technology executives to discuss ways to enhance cybersecurity defences.

A man is seen holding a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him
Cyberattacks have become increasingly sophisticated and complex in recent years, and the administration of United States President Joe Biden said it is eager to work with tech and private-sector firms to help combat cybercrime [File: Kacper Pempel/Reuters]

United States President Joe Biden met with tech executives at the White House on Wednesday, urging them and other key players in the industry to do more to fight the growing cybersecurity threat.

“The federal government can’t meet this challenge alone,” Biden told the executives gathered in the East Room. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The guest list included leaders of major technology companies.

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc CEO Sundar Pichai and IBM Chief Executive Arvind Krishna were all in attendance.

The meeting with top executives comes as Congress considers legislation regarding data-breach notification laws and cybersecurity insurance industry regulation on the heels of several ransomware attacks that targeted crucial infrastructure in the US.

An attack in May of this year targeted Colonial Pipeline, a major fuel distributor, causing the company to temporarily shut down its operations. That halted the flow of fuel to gas stations and created severe shortages along the heavily populated US East Coast.

Several weeks later, the world’s largest meat processor, JBS SA, was hit by another cyberattack, forcing it to halt operations at some of its slaughterhouses globally.

In recent years, hackers have carried out increasingly sophisticated attacks, extorting millions from major companies and corporations.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Biden also highlighted some accomplishments of his administration in the area of cybersecurity – including his work on the matter with the Group of Seven nations and NATO.

“We’ve seen time and again how the technologies we rely on, cell phones, and pipelines and the electric grid, can become targets of criminals. At the same time, our skilled cybersecurity workforce has not grown fast enough to keep pace … about half a million cybersecurity jobs remain unfilled,” Biden said.

On Wednesday, Microsoft pledged to invest $20bn over five years to speed up its cybersecurity agenda. The company also said it will make available $150m in technical services to help federal, state and local governments to help keep their security systems up to date.

Discussions at Wednesday’s summit focused on ransomware, critical infrastructure, supply-chain security, cybersecurity education and data-breach insurance policy, according to media reports.

Finance-industry executives including those from Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase – as well as representatives from the energy, education and insurance sectors – were also due to attend.

Leaders from insurance firms, which are critical in covering damages from data breaches, were expected to attend the summit as well.

On the government side, Biden was joined by his newly confirmed National Cyber Director Chris Inglis and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies