Biden to host summit with tech moguls on combating cyberattacks

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United States President Joe Biden is set to host leaders from the country’s largest technology and finance firms at the White House on Wednesday to discuss how to shore up their cybersecurity defences in the face of increasingly complex attacks.

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.

But the federal government cannot alone tackle those challenges, “and in many cases, the private sector is better positioned for reasons of authority or influence”, a senior Biden administration official told reporters during a press briefing on Tuesday.

“Both the US public- and private-sector entities increasingly face sophisticated malicious cyberactivity. These incidents affect businesses small and large, small towns and cities in every corner of the country, and can hit the pocketbooks of middle-class families,” the official added.

Discussions at the White House on Wednesday will centre around ransomware, critical infrastructure, supply-chain security, cybersecurity education and data-breach insurance policy, according to media reports.

Among those on the attendance list are Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive; Andy Jassy, Amazon’s chief executive; and Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. Leaders from IBM and Microsoft will also join.

Finance-industry executives are expected to attend as well. Some of those joining the meeting will be chief executives of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. Representatives from the energy, education and insurance sectors are also due to attend.

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

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

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