By Natalie DeCoste

Ransomware attacks have become more frequent over the last few years, with cybercriminals targeting hospitals and pipelines in their attacks. Now the U.S. government is stepping up to defend against cyberattacks with the help of Big Tech.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), an offshoot of Homeland Security, announced the creation of the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative (JCDC) on Aug. 5. The new JCDC will lead the development of the Nation’s cyber defense plans, which outline activities to prevent and reduce the impacts of cyber intrusions.

The JCDC will develop the cyber defense plans and execute them in coordination with partners from the federal interagency, private sector, and state, local, tribal, and territorial government stakeholders to mitigate threats of an incident and unify defensive actions should an incident occur.

“The JCDC presents an exciting and important opportunity for this agency and our partners – the creation of a unique planning capability to be proactive vice reactive in our collective approach to dealing with the most serious cyber threats to our nation,” said CISA Director Jen Easterly.

Companies from the private sector that are involved in the new effort include Amazon Web Services, AT&T, Crowdstrike, FireEye Mandiant, Google Cloud, Lumen, Microsoft, Palo Alto Networks, and Verizon.

“The industry partners that have agreed to work side-by-side with CISA and our interagency teammates share the same commitment to defending our country’s national critical functions from cyber intrusions, and the imagination to spark new solutions. With these extraordinarily capable partners, our initial focus will be on efforts to combat ransomware and developing a planning framework to coordinate incidents affecting cloud service providers,” said Easterly.

On the government side, it was announced that the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, United States Cyber Command, the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence would be involved in the work done by the JCDC.

Creating the new collaborative is crucial as ransomware attacks and cybercriminals have wreaked havoc at an alarming rate. Attacks in the last year have diverted ambulances, caused gas stations to go dry in the Southeast, and disrupted meat production.

“In recent months, various major cyber incidents have had an impact on our critical infrastructure community and caused downstream consequences to Americans that rely on it for everyday functions. The federal government, SLTT governments, and the private sector work tirelessly to strengthen our defensive posture,” CISA stated.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration unveiled several efforts to strengthen cybersecurity practices across federal agencies after the threat of ransomware attacks grew greater. The administration showcased a $20 billion plan to secure the country’s infrastructure against cyberattacks as part of its plan.

Beyond the White House, the Senate included additional funding for CISA in its $1 trillion infrastructure bill that could be passed this week. The proposed bill includes numerous measures to strengthen the Nation’s cyber-infrastructure, including $1 billion in funding for a cybersecurity grant program for states and local authorities and additional money to boost energy-sector cyber defenses over the next few years.