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US State Department unveils plans for Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy

By Reporter
26 October 2021 | 1 minute read

A memo from Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that the bureau will confront the growing challenges posed by ransomware and hacking operations, many of which are aimed at critical civilian infrastructure, in line with White House objectives.

The US State Department confirmed that it intends to establish a bureau overseeing malicious activities in cyber space, amid a recent increase in hacking and ransomware campaigns aimed at the nation's critical infrastructure.

In a memo from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s office, Secretary Blinken explained that the plan reflects the Biden administration’s objective of overcoming challenges posed by the modern threat environment and will additionally create a new envoy to oversee emerging technologies.

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"This structure will provide us with greater leadership and accountability to drive the diplomatic agenda within the interagency and abroad," Secretary Blinken said.

Department spokesperson Ned Price elaborated, noting that the emerging technology envoy will concentrate on "three key areas: international cyber space security, international digital policy and digital freedom".

While seeking to rise to the challenges of the industry, the plans remain subject to Congressional approval.

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Indeed, the announcement came shortly after Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas warned that cyber attacks designed to cripple critical civilian infrastructure, and potentially cause physical harm, are likely to increase in frequency.

Speaking to USA Today this week, the United States’ Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas raised red flags over the growing risk of “killware” tactics – whereby cyber criminals attack critical civilian infrastructure, resulting in potentially fatal outcomes.

Mayorkas made specific mention of the February hack on the Oldsmar Florida water treatment plant, where cyber criminals are thought to have leveraged outdated Windows 7 operating systems, unsecured facility networks and old passwords to gain access into the facility.

In August, it was also revealed that the Department of Justice was breached last year by SolarWinds hack that compromised the department’s Microsoft O365 emails.

While the scale of the intrusions varied across offices, four offices in New York had 80 per cent of Microsoft accounts' emails compromised.

According to a statement made by the Department of Justice, the attackers accessed data from both sent and received boxes, as well as stored emails and attachments.

“The department is responding to this incident as if the advanced persistent threat (APT) group responsible for the SolarWinds breach had access to all email communications and attachments found within the compromised O365 accounts,” the statement by the department read.

[Related: Russians hacked US federal prosecutors, government confirms]

US State Department unveils plans for Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy
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