In Face Of Hack Attacks, U.S. State Department To Set Up Cyber Bureau

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department plans to establish a bureau of cyberspace and digital policy in the face of a growing hacking problem, specifically a surge of ransomware attacks on U.S. infrastructure.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said a Senate-confirmed ambassador at large will lead the bureau.

Hackers have struck numerous U.S. companies this year.

One such attack on pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline led to temporary fuel supply shortages on the U.S. East Coast. Hackers also targeted an Iowa-based agricultural company, sparking fears of disruptions to Midwest grain harvesting.

Two weeks ago the Treasury Department said suspected ransomware payments totaling $590 million were made in the first six months of this year. It put the cryptocurrency industry on alert about its role in fighting ransomware attacks.

Price said the State Department will also establish a new special envoy for critical and emerging technology “to lead the immediate technology diplomacy agenda”.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Arshad Mohammed and Simon Lewis; Editing by Howard Goller)