Last spring, the Costa Rican government suffered a series of ransomware attacks that compromised critical systems around the country. As imports and exports, health care and other public services were disrupted, Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves Robles declared a state of emergency, and recovery was a months-long ordeal. Nearly a year into the crisis, a senior White House official told reporters today that the United States plans to provide $25 million in cybersecurity assistance to help Costa Rica strengthen its digital infrastructure.
The grant will include funding to establish a Security Operations Center within Costa Rica’s Ministry of Science, Innovation, Technology and Communications. This will increase the nation’s ability to systematically improve its critical infrastructure defenses, detect intrusions, and coordinate incident response across government. Funding will also include cybersecurity training as well as secure equipment, including hardware and software licenses.
The senior Biden administration official, who spoke to reporters on the condition that they not be named, is currently in Costa Rica to meet with Chaves about the aid, which will come from the US State Department . Costa Rica is co-hosting the US State Department’s 2023 Democracy Summit this week.
The official also told reporters that in February the United States government awarded a similar $25 million grant to Albania following a destructive attack on the government of this country last summer that was attributed to Iranian hackers.
“At the time [of the ransomware attacks]we immediately deployed a team of U.S. experts to assist with Costa Rica’s recovery, and have worked closely with the country since then – and recognized that this additional stability, this additional assistance is needed,” the official said. American to journalists.
The official said the Biden administration chose recipients of cybersecurity funding “based on the significance of the attacks that occurred.” Iran’s cyber attack on Albania was notable for its targeting of a NATO member. suggested that the attacks on their networks, which were carried out by notorious Russia-based cybercriminal gangs, may have been a response to Costa Rica’s outspoken support for Ukraine.
The attacks on Costa Rica were carried out by the now disbanded prolific cybercriminal gang Conti and its affiliates. The group demanded a $20 million ransom and uploaded hundreds of gigabytes of data stolen in the attacks to its dark website. And the group has been explicit about its destructive intentions. “We are determined to overthrow the government through a cyberattack,” he wrote in a message to Costa Rica and “American terrorists (Biden and his administration).” At the time of the attacks, the US State Department offered awards totaling $15 million for information about Conti that leads to an arrest.
In recent years, in the face of escalating digital threats, the United States has focused on launching initiatives to bring the global community together against ransomware and other cybercrimes.
“In the current environment, we recognize the importance of supporting the security of our allies and partners,” the senior official said today, citing collaboration with European allies, Russian cyberattacks and the “wider competition with China” as the general geopolitical backdrop to move it.