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Ransomware tops US cyber priorities, Homeland secretary says

Representational image.
Representational image.

Ransomware - which effectively holds files and networks hostage unless a payment is made - has steadily climbed to the top of America's security agenda as the criminals behind it become increasingly well-resourced.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Wednesday that dealing with ransomware will be a top priority, highlighting the growing threat of the data-scrambling software.

Ransomware - which effectively holds files and networks hostage unless a payment is made - has steadily climbed to the top of America's security agenda as the criminals behind it become increasingly well-resourced.

Speaking via a webcast, Mayorkas said that ransomware was "a particularly egregious type of malicious cyber activity" and listed it as the first of several top priorities that his department would tackle in the cyber sphere.

Mayorkas' feed cut out due to a technical glitch before he could provide further information on DHS' plans. DHS did not immediately reply with further details about what the agency's plans were for addressing the issue.

Earlier in his address, Mayorkas laid out an ambitious role for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which is DHS' cyber arm. He said the agency would "quarterback" the U.S. government's digital defenses and serve as a "trusted interlocutor" between business executives and public servants.

"It is clearly best positioned to be the tip of the spear and the front door for the U.S. government's engagement with industry on cybersecurity," he said. 

Reporting by Raphael Satter.

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