State Department to set up new cyber bureau to combat hack attack surge

Secretary of State Tony Blinken announced Monday plans for the State Department to create a new bureau of cyberspace and digital policy.

Why it matters: The establishment of the bureau and plans for a new envoy to oversee critical and emerging technology come after a series significant hack attacks and other online crimes, notably ransomware assaults on U.S. infrastructure.

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Details: Blinken said in a memo to staff that following congressional approval the new envoy and the Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy "provide us with greater leadership and accountability to drive the diplomatic agenda within the interagency and abroad," per AFP.

  • State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a briefing later Monday that the new Senate-confirmed ambassador-at-large would "lead the immediate technology diplomacy agenda with our allies, partners, and across the range of multilateral fora."

  • The bureau would focus on "three key areas: international cyberspace security, international digital policy and digital freedom."

The big picture: President Biden signed an executive order in May in response to the cyberattacks in the public and private sectors — from the hacking of the Colonial Pipeline to the SolarWinds and Microsoft Exchange attack.

  • Some $590 million had been paid by victims of ransomware attacks in the first six months of this year amid a surge in cybercrime, according to a Treasury Department report released earlier this month.

Go deeper: A conversation on cybersecurity

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