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SC Magazine: As Ransomware Inches from Economic Burden to National Security Threat, Policies may Follow

February 25, 2021

O’Melveny counsel John Dermody spoke with SC Magazine about the ongoing threat of ransomware and the range of policy options on the table for the US government. Ransomware is traditionally perceived as a backburner issue for law enforcement, but that is changing, the publication reported.

“What we’ve seen in the last several years is an erosion of that divide,” said Dermody, who previously served as deputy legal counsel to the National Security Council and in the general counsel’s office at te Department of Homeland Security. “It is a very difficult issue to address because it’s not something the government would typically be involved in,” Dermody added. “But there is a recognition this is a serious problem, and the status quo is not sustainable.”

A spate of recent ransomware attacks have caught the attention of policymakers. Policy responses range from pointed solutions like criminalizing ransom payments to more complex measures aimed at boosting ransomware defense standards. 

“The drain on the economy is a national security issue, not just the threat to infrastructure,” said Dermody. But not all solutions are equally palatable, notes the publication. As Dermody put it, “the medicine might not taste good.”

In addition to defensive measures, the US government also maintains offensive capabilities targeted at disrupting cybercriminal operations. “I think where you’ll see new activity over the next few years is the use of CYBERCOM to throw sand in the gears of cybercriminals,” said Dermody.

SC Magazine subscribers can read the full article here.