Some of the leading technology companies have committed to investing billions of dollars to strengthen cybersecurity defences and to train skilled workers, the White House has announced, following President Joe Biden’s private meeting with top executives.
The gathering was held Wednesday during a relentless stretch of ransomware attacks that have targeted critical infrastructure, in some cases with the attackers extorting multimillion-dollar payments from major corporations, as well as other illicit cyber operations that US authorities have linked to foreign hackers.
The Biden administration has been urging the private sector to do its part to strengthen cybersecurity defences against those increasingly sophisticated attacks. In public remarks before the private meeting got underway, Biden referred to cybersecurity as a “core national security challenge” for the US. “The reality is most of our critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector, and the federal government can’t meet this challenge alone,” Biden said. “I’ve invited you all here today because you have the power, the capacity and the responsibility, I believe, to raise the bar on cybersecurity.” After the meeting, the White House announced that Google had committed to invest $10 billion in cybersecurity over the next five years, money aimed at helping secure the software supply chain and expand zero-trust programmes.
The Biden administration has looked for ways to safeguard the government’s supply chain following a massive Russian government cyber espionage campaign that exploited vulnerabilities and gave hackers access to the networks of US government agencies and private companies.
Microsoft, meanwhile, said it would invest $20 billion in cybersecurity over the next five years and make available $150 million in technical services to help local governments improve their defences. IBM plans to train 150,000 people in cybersecurity over three years, and Apple said it would develop a new programme to help strengthen the supply chain.
Top executives of each of those companies were invited to Wednesday’s meeting, as were financial industry executives and representatives from the energy, education and insurance sectors.
A government initiative that at first supported the cybersecurity defences of electric utilities has been expanded to focus on natural gas pipelines, the White House said Wednesday.
Though ransomware was intended as one focus of Wednesday’s gathering, a senior administration official who briefed reporters in advance said the purpose was much broader, centered on identifying the “root causes of malicious cyber activities” and ways in which the private sector can help bolster cybersecurity.