Google and Microsoft said they are pledging to invest a total of $30 billion in cybersecurity advantages over the next five years, as the U.S. government partners with private sector companies to address threats facing the country in the wake of a string of sophisticated malicious cyber activity targeting critical infrastructure, laying bare the risks to data, organizations, and governments worldwide.
The announcement follows the White House’s release Wednesday of a new national cyber strategy, which puts more focus on protecting critical infrastructures such as energy grids and calls for greater cooperation involving both the private and public sectors.
U.S. government officials said that China and Russia pose the greatest cyber threats to the U.S., though they declined to name other countries that pose significant dangers, Reuters noted. The officials also said there has been a recent spike in “malicious cyber activity” targeting critical infrastructure, but they declined to provide specifics.
The announcement comes days after adversaries used malware to take over computers at manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp., the U.S. government’s secret intelligence service, and nuclear power plant operator Southern Company, among other targets. Even before that, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation had warned the world at large that cyber-attacks are on the rise, with hackers taking advantage of weaknesses in the worldwide web represented by software known as open-source applications to get around firewalls and security protections to steal intellectual property or wreak havoc among victim organizations.
The new federal strategy urges greater collaboration between governments and private industry to help protect critical infrastructure from digital threats while encouraging developers “to create cyber-secure applications.
“A digital environment of trust and security is essential for global commerce and economic prosperity. But it is not yet a reality,” said President Barack Obama in a statement. “Instead, we continue to see new and troubling cyber threats emerging, including those that are designed to disrupt critical infrastructure.”
The U.S. strategy also calls on the private sector to take “significant steps” over the next five years to secure its own networks, including investing in technology that can better protect against cyber threats.
The largest investment by Google will go toward bolstering cyber defenses at its own systems, according to a brief blog post by CEO Larry Page announcing the partnership with Microsoft.
Microsoft’s investment will focus on open-source security tools and services, including those that can be embedded in operating systems and applications, which it hopes will spur the development of “new tools to enhance our collective security.” Microsoft also plans to open a new cyber defense research center in Israel.
Microsoft will invest $20 billion over the next five years to deliver advanced security solutions, in addition to making available $150 million in technical services to help federal, state, and local governments with upgrading security protections.
Google will invest over $10 billion to bolster cybersecurity, including expanding zero-trust programs, helping secure the software supply chain, and enhancing open-source security. It’s worth noting that the search giant, earlier this June, announced a framework called the Supply chain Levels for Software Artifacts to safeguard the integrity of software supply chains.
While it remains to be seen how these efforts will unfold in practice, the commitments demonstrate the urgency in priority and elevating cybersecurity after a relentless stretch of high-profile cyberattacks targeting SolarWinds, Microsoft, Colonial Pipeline, JBS, and Kaseya in recent months. These incidents also promoted U.S. President Joe Biden to issue an executive order in May requiring federal agencies to modernize their cybersecurity defenses.
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