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FBI director Christopher Wray testifies during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on June 10. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Profit-driven cyberattacks are becoming frighteningly routine, with more and more industries facing the threat of having their vital information stolen and little recourse beyond paying a ransom.

Why it matters: Such attacks may be motivated by profit, but as recent events have shown, can cause significant disruption to vital industries.

Driving the news:

  • JBS and Colonial Pipeline have both confirmed they paid ransoms after recent high-profile attacks, while cities and hospitals have also forked over payments to regain control of their data.
  • Electronic Arts suffered a data breach that included source code for some of its games.

What they're saying:

  • "We think the cyber threat is increasing almost exponentially," FBI director Christopher Wray said at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

The big picture: Two factors are responsible for accelerating the ransomware problem. First, the rise of cryptocurrency makes it easy for data hijackers to collect their ransom. Second, many companies simply can't afford to risk losing their data.

Yes, but: Experts say the key to slowing the trend is turning the tables on attackers through collective action.

  • "The key to disrupting ransomware is disrupting the ransomware supply chain," Gurvais Grigg, an FBI veteran who is now public sector CTO at crypto firm Chainalysis, said on the Axios Re:Cap podcast.
  • The Justice Department said last week it plans to start addressing cyberattacks in much the way it approaches the fight against terrorism.

Go deeper: Ransomware business achieves critical mass

Go deeper

FBI director says cyber threat is increasing "almost exponentially"

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on June 10, 2021. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Cyber threats are increasing at a rapid pace, FBI director Christopher Wray warned on Thursday.

Why it matters: Multiple federal agencies and U.S. businesses — including meat producers and oil pipelines — have been breached this year, raising alarm for the nation's cybersecurity.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jun 10, 2021 - Podcasts

Ransomware becomes an industry

Federal authorities this week announced they successfully traced and recovered most of the bitcoin that had been paid by Colonial Pipeline to a ransomware gang called DarkSide, following the May hack that shut off gas supplies to much of the East Coast.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the battle between law enforcement and crypto hackers, including how ransomware has become a global industry of its own, with Gurvais Grigg, a 23-year FBI veteran who now serves as public sector CTO at crypto firm Chainalysis.

JBS says it paid $11 million ransom after cyberattack

Photo: Chet Strange/Getty Images

JBS USA on Thursday announced it had paid hackers "the equivalent of $11 million in ransom" to resolve a cyberattack that forced the meat company to shut down.

State of play: The payment was made in bitcoin, per the Wall Street Journal. The company said it made the decision to pay the ransom after consulting with "internal IT professionals and third-party cybersecurity experts."