U.S. senators propose sanctions against cybercrime

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 - Two senior U.S. senators proposed legislation on Thursday to combat ransomware attacks on U.S. infrastructure by strengthening cyber criminals and sanctioning countries who harbor cyber criminals, as well as through protections against attacks.

Senators Dianne Feinstein, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Republican Marco Rubio, a senior member of the intelligence and judiciary committees, planned to introduce the Sanction and Punish Ransomware Act on Thursday.

According to a copy of the bill seen by Reuters, it would require development of cybersecurity standards for critical infrastructure, tighten regulation of cryptocurrency - often demanded as ransom - and direct the State Department and intelligence community to designate as a state sponsor of ransomware any country that is considered to provide support for ransomware demand schemes.

The threat of ransomware attacks against Americans infrastructure bludgeoned to them on the east coast when an attack against Colonial Pipeline Co. in May led to widespread shortages at gas stations.

The Justice Department was later able to recover some $2.3 million in cryptocurrency ransom they paid to hackers.

About $350 million ransom was paid in 2020 to cyber criminals, a more than 300% increase over the previous year, the Department said.

The president of the United States told Joe Biden last month that if the United States ended up in a cyber War with a major power it could be the result of a violent cyber attack on Washington, highlighting what Washington sees as a growing threat posed by hackers from Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.