The Department of Justice has issued new guidelines saying it will investigate ransomware attacks with the same priority level as terrorism, after the Colonial Pipeline hack caused a week-long shutdown of the largest gas pipeline on the East Coast, Reuters was first to report. The Colonial Pipeline attack was the latest in a string of ransomware attacks of increasing severity on local and municipal governments, schools and other U.S. infrastructure.
A newly created task force based in D.C. will serve as a funnel for all ransomware investigations, an investigatory model reserved for cases of important national security, according to the new guidance. Investigations into crypto exchanges, botnets, money laundering and Dark Web platforms all qualify for this new centralized review process.
"There are a lot of parallels, there's a lot of importance, and a lot of focus by us on disruption and prevention," FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Wall Street Journal last week about the similarities between ransomware and terrorism. Ransomware attacks in the U.S. have tripled in the last year, according to Wray.
Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @
anna_c_kramer), where she helps write and produce Source Code, Protocol's daily newsletter. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.