The White House on Wednesday said that some of the country's leading technology companies have committed to investing billions of dollars to strengthen cybersecurity defenses and to train skilled workers. This announcement came following President Joe Biden's private meeting with top executives.
The Associated Press reported that the Washington gathering was held during a relentless stretch of ransomware attacks that have targeted critical infrastructure and major corporations, as well as other illicit cyber operations that US authorities have linked to foreign hackers.
Joe Biden's administration has been urging the private sector to do its part to protect against those attacks. In public remarks before the meeting, Biden termed cybersecurity a "core national security challenge" for the United States.
"The reality is most of our critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector, and the federal government can't meet this challenge alone," the Associated Press reported Biden as saying.
"I've invited you all here today because you have the power, the capacity and the responsibility, I believe, to raise the bar on cybersecurity," Biden added.
The White House, after the meeting, announced that Google had committed to invest $10 billion in cybersecurity over the next five years, the money aimed at helping secure the software supply chain and expand zero-trust programs.
The administration has looked for ways to safeguard the government's supply chain following a massive Russian government cyberespionage campaign that exploited vulnerabilities and gave hackers access to the networks of the US government agencies and private companies.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has said that it would invest $20 billion in cybersecurity over the next five years and make available $150 million in technical services to help local governments upgrade their defenses.
IBM, on the other side, plans to train as many as 150,000 people in cybersecurity over three years. Apple said it would develop a new program to help strengthen the technology supply chain, and Amazon said it would offer to the public the same security awareness training it gives to employees.
"Top executives of each of those companies were invited to Wednesday's meeting, as were financial industry executives and representatives from the energy, education and insurance sectors. A government initiative that at first supported the cybersecurity defenses of electric utilities has now been expanded to focus on natural gas pipelines," the White House said.
The meeting took place as Biden's national security team had been consumed by the troop withdrawal in Afghanistan and the chaotic evacuation of Americans and Afghan citizens. That it remained on the calendar indicates the administration regards cybersecurity as a major agenda item, with the administration official describing Wednesday's meeting as a “call to action.”
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden pointed to a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June when he said he made clear his expectation that Russia take steps to rein in ransomware gangs because "they know where (the hackers) are and who they are."