CORRESPONDENT IN WASHINGTON
Spain has been left out of the great initiative of the White House against cyber blackmail, which is a security problem on the rise with millionaire costs. The National Security Council of the US presidency has virtually summoned representatives from 30 countries this Wednesday and Thursday to coordinate against this growing problem, which occurs when a program takes control of the system or device it infects, and requests a reward for returning control to its owner.
Cyber blackmail payments exceeded $ 400 million (about € 350 million) globally in 2020, according to the White House.
It is not that Spain is alien to these cyber problems. Following a cyberattack of this nature suffered on June 9 of this year at the Ministry of Labor, the Spanish government had to disburse 2.1 million euros to fix its damage. Even so, the Government of Spain is not on the guest list to coordinate joint initiatives that the US National Security Council revealed on Tuesday in a call with journalists. This cybersecurity problem is so serious that the director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, has compared it to the threat of jihadist terrorism.
The countries represented in this new initiative, according to the White House, are: Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lithuania, Mexico , Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom.
It is true that the European Union also has a presence, but despite this, other member countries, both the EU and NATO, such as France or Germany, have been invited in a private capacity. These countries will benefit from intelligence and technology that the American security apparatus has at its disposal.
“Only close allies”
Asked about the absences, a White House official said Tuesday that those involved “are just close allies.” “There are a number of reasons why specific countries were invited to participate, including the agenda, availability of partners and logistical considerations. But the most important thing is that this is not our first international meeting, and it will not be the last. And the countries that participate are only close allies“Said that source, who requested anonymity.
The US has suffered several cyber-blackmail attacks, O “ransomware‘, As it is called in English, in recent months. Colonial, the operator of a pipeline from Texas to New Jersey, had to shut down in May, leading to shortages and queues at gas stations. In June, JBS, the world’s leading meat producer, was forced to temporarily close its plants in the US, Canada and Australia. A month later, a thousand companies around the world, including Spain, were affected by an attack against Kaseya, a software company.
The absence in this forum of Spain, which has traditionally been a close partner of Washington, adds to months of disagreements due to the refusal of the Pedro Sánchez executive to sign statements condemning the Cuban and Venezuelan dictatorships promoted from the US Last week, a prominent Democratic senator accused Sánchez of being “outside of democracy and human rights” for his Latin American politics.
This cybernetic initiative is also a project defended by Biden, which stems from concern over the rise in cyber attacks that was discussed at a recent G-7 meeting. This newspaper asked the White House yesterday to detail the reasons for Spain’s absence. The answer was: «This meeting is the first of many conversations between international partners participating this week and beyond. It does not mean that the designated countries participating are the only ones with whom we will work in anti-cyberbullying efforts. “
Pressure on Russia and China
The same official mentioned above said that one of the priority criteria was lograr support to pressure Russia and China to do more to prevent and combat this cybersecurity problem: “We have worked with allies and partners to hold specific states accountable for malicious cyber activities, as evidenced by the international support we have had in attributing those attacks to Russia and China.”
Traditionally, these blackmails are carried out by groups of ‘hackers’ or hackers, who are difficult to locate, but the White House has located recent attacks in Russia and China, and has called on both regimes to take action and hold those responsible to account. So far, neither regime has done anything.
The aforementioned official adds that “although the US is organizing this meeting, we do not see it solely as an American initiative… Many governments have been indispensable in organizing the meeting and, in particular, there have been countries that have volunteered to lead and organize specific thematic debates ”.
India will, in fact, moderate the debate on resistance to cyberattacks; Australia on disruption of its networks; UK on cryptocurrencies, and Germany on diplomacy.