The United States plans to provide $25m in cybersecurity assistance to Costa Rica, in order to bolster its defences following a series of ransomware attacks last year. The funding will establish a cybersecurity centre within Costa Rica’s Ministry of Science, Innovation, Technology and Communications, as well as providing cybersecurity training and secure equipment. The move comes after the US government provided a similar $25m grant to Albania in February, which was recovering from a hack attributed to Iranian hackers. The US has also launched initiatives aimed at uniting the global community against cybercrime.
Last year’s attacks on Costa Rican critical systems, which were led by Russia-based cybercriminal gangs, disrupted a range of public services and prompted the declaration of a state of emergency by the country’s president, Rodrigo Chaves Robles. It has been suggested that the attacks may have been in response to Costa Rica’s support of Ukraine. Conti, the disbanded cybercriminal group behind the attacks, demanded a $20m ransom and posted data stolen in the attacks on the dark web.
The grant to Costa Rica was announced as a senior Biden administration official visited the country to discuss the aid. The official told reporters that cybersecurity funding recipients have been chosen “based on the significance of the attacks that occurred”. The geopolitical backdrop against which the move has been made includes competition with China, Russian cyberattacks and collaboration with European allies. The US State Department had offered rewards totalling $15m for information leading to the arrest of Conti members at the time of the attacks.
The funding package will help Costa Rica to improve its critical infrastructure defences, and to detect intrusions and coordinate incident response across the government. The establishment of a cybersecurity centre will form a key part of the initiative, and the grant will also fund the provision of secure equipment.