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Katko In The Washington Times: Cyberattacks are the New Modern Warfare Model

April 7, 2022

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Katko In The Washington Times: Cyberattacks are the New Modern Warfare Model

In the past two years, Russian hackers have attacked America’s fuel and food supply, and the software that underpins everything from how Americans get their paychecks, to where they get their healthcare. Now, new intelligence suggests the Russian Government is actively exploring options for cyberattacks in the United States as retaliation for our nation’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

To understand what’s possible, it is important to know what attacks Russia and its criminal proxies have already carried out.

Colonial Pipeline: In May of 2021, the Colonial Pipeline Company temporarily shut down pipeline operations, which provide approximately 45% of the motor fuel for the East Coast, due to a ransomware attack by alleged Russian cyber criminals. What if this had happened amidst the current surge in fuel prices Americans are paying at the pump?

SolarWinds: In 2019, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) compromised SolarWinds, an IT company with pervasive access across both U.S. Government and private sector networks. The result was over 16,000 compromised computer systems, containing a tremendous amount of sensitive data. This unprecedented cyber operation was believed to be aimed at intelligence gathering rather than system disruption. What if the objective had been disruption or destruction?

Kaseya and JBS Foods: In 2021, a cybercriminal gang that included Russian nationals compromised Kaseya, a software management company, and passed ransomware through Kaseya to potentially thousands of customers. The same group was behind the JBS Foods attack, which shut down multiple domestic food production factories and created supply chain disturbances and price volatility for meat in the U.S.

Imagine if all of these had happened at the same time, and the goal had been destruction, not financial gain or intelligence-gathering.

It’s become explicitly clear that the Russian government has no intention of working to stop cyber aggression from actors operating out of their country. Adversaries like Russia are creating safe havens for bad actors and the only way to respond is with strength. Russia will not stop attempting to undermine U.S. cyber space until they know the consequences will be dire. We’re facing a moment of reckoning when it comes to deterrence.

In the immediate term, all of us have a job to do during this time of heightened risk. As policymakers, we must continue to advance policies to make us more secure – such as equipping the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) with the necessary resources to keep our nation safe and maintaining strict oversight of how the agency’s funding and tools are used. We must also get the word out about the wealth of free resources that CISA already offers individuals, businesses, and state and local governments.

As citizens, we should use multi-factor authentication (MFA) on all of our important accounts, avoid using the same passwords for multiple accounts, and regularly restart our mobile devices. Additionally, we must increase our awareness of suspicious cyber activity and aim to identify and report this activity to CISA or our local FBI field offices. No clue is too small. By doing these things, we can reduce our cyber risk significantly.

As Russian cyber attackers continue to act with impunity and disrupt our most critical assets and way of life, time is of the essence. We must work now to transform the United States into the most cybersecure nation in the world. As Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Committee, I will continue working across party lines with the Biden administration to empower CISA with the tools and resources necessary to protect our nation’s cyber assets against current and future threats.