The Lawfare Podcast: How Can Congress Take on the Ransomware Problem?

Jen Patja Howell, Scott R. Anderson, Benjamin Wittes, Alvaro Marañon
Monday, August 16, 2021, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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The United States government has been wrestling with what to do about a particular type of cyber threat—ransomware—that holds a victim's data and computer systems hostage until they pay, usually in the form of cryptocurrency, to an anonymous recipient. Recent ransomware attacks have threatened everything from hospitals to the media industry, with payment being the main way that most companies are choosing to get back online. But what does giving into such demands mean for broader U.S. efforts to prevent and deter ransomware attacks? Scott R. Anderson sat down on Lawfare Live with Lawfare editor-in-chief Benjamin Wittes and Lawfare fellow in cybersecurity law Alvaro Marañon, who together recently authored a piece for Lawfare entitled, “Ransomware Payments and the Law.” They argue that stemming the flow of payments is essential to deterring ransomware attacks and argue that the United States should adopt a policy banning such payments in all but the most serious cases. They discussed the threat that ransomware poses to the U.S. economy, how payments should be dealt with, and what Congress and the Biden administration seem to be doing about it.

Jen Patja Howell is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.
Scott R. Anderson is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a Senior Fellow in the National Security Law Program at Columbia Law School. He previously served as an Attorney-Adviser in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State and as the legal advisor for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.
Benjamin Wittes is editor in chief of Lawfare and a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of several books.
Alvaro Marañon is a former fellow in Cybersecurity Law at Lawfare. Alvaro is a graduate from the American University Washington College of Law and the University of New Hampshire.

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