President Joe Biden is meeting Wednesday with top executives from some of the country’s leading technology companies and financial institutions as the White House urges the private sector to help toughen cybersecurity defenses against increasingly sophisticated attacks.
The meeting is taking place as Biden’s national security team has been consumed by the troop withdrawal in Afghanistan and the chaotic evacuation of American citizens and Afghan allies. The fact the meeting remained on the calendar underscores how the administration regards cybersecurity as a major agenda item, with a senior administration official describing Wednesday’s event as a “call to action.”
Leaders attending the meeting include Apple CEO Tim Cook, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and University of Texas chancellor JB Milliken.
The summit comes during a relentless stretch of ransomware attacks that have targeted critical infrastructure, in some cases extorting multi-million-dollar payments from major corporations, as well as other illicit cyber operations that U.S. authorities have linked to foreign hackers.
Though ransomware is one focus of Wednesday’s gathering, the purpose of the meeting is broader and centered on identifying the “root causes of malicious cyber activities” and ways in which the private sector can help bolster cybersecurity, said a senior administration official who briefed reporters about the gathering on the condition of anonymity.
Others expected at Wednesday's meeting include newly minted Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, Alphabet (Google) CEO Sundar Pichai, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, as well as representatives from major insurance companies, education leaders, energy and water company executives and key members of Biden's Cabinet.
Following the meeting, according to the White House, the leaders will split into three sessions led by members of the Cabinet and national security team:
- Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will lead financial, energy and water leaders in a Critical Infrastructure Resilience session
- Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Small Business Administration administrator Isabel Guzman will hold a session about Building Enduring Cybersecurity with tech and insurance leaders
- National Cyber Director Chris Inglis will chair a Cybersecurity Workforce session with education leaders
The broad cross-section of participants underscores how cyber attacks have cut across virtually all sectors of commerce. In May, for instance, hackers associated with a Russia-based cyber gang launched a ransomware attack on a major fuel pipeline in the U.S., causing the company to temporarily halt operations. Weeks later, the world’s largest meat processor, JBS SA, was hit with an attack by a different hacking group.
In both instances, the companies made multi-million-dollar ransom payments in an effort to get back online.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.