Portman, Peters Statement on Widespread Cyberattacks, Plan Hearings & Legislation in Early 2021
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI) issued the following statement on the ongoing cyberattacks against our federal agencies, U.S. companies, and some state governments. Portman and Peters have been leaders in the Senate on legislative efforts to strengthen the federal government cyber response. They will lead the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in the new Congress and plan to hold hearings and work on bipartisan comprehensive cybersecurity legislation in the new year.
“The recently discovered and ongoing cyberattacks cannot be tolerated and demonstrate the weakness of our cyber defenses and capacity to respond. These attacks were highly complex and they must be unraveled to know the full extent of the exposure to federal and state agencies and the private sector. The immediate effort must be to stop the immediate threat and ensure our systems are secure. We will in the future need to understand the full scope and impact to ensure that we know what damage has been done and to better prepare to respond next time. These types of sophisticated attacks are going to continue and we must work across the federal government, as well as with our private sector and state and local partners, to learn from this and strengthen our cyber defenses moving forward.
“In June 2019, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a bipartisan report that extensively documented the cybersecurity vulnerabilities and weaknesses in many of our federal agencies, including the Departments of State and Homeland Security. Next Congress, through the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, we intend to work together to understand the origin, scope, and severity of this breach, and plan to work on bipartisan comprehensive legislation to improve our cyber defenses to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
Senator Portman, as Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, has led multiple investigations into the failure of federal agencies and companies to protect their networks and data. In June 2019, Portman released a bipartisan report finding that the vast majority of federal agencies reviewed by the Subcommittee failed to implement effective and comprehensive cybersecurity frameworks. This included the failure to protect sensitive personal identifiable information and an overreliance on outdated legacy systems. The report highlighted the cybersecurity failures of both the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, two of the agencies affected in this breach. He also led a year-long investigation into the Equifax data breach, which culminated in a bipartisan report and hearing in March 2019 detailing the company’s failure to protect the personal and financial data for more than 145 million Americans.
As Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Senator Peters has led a number of bipartisan efforts to bolster our nation’s cybersecurity defenses. He and Senator Portman introduced a bill to require the federal government to make better investments in cybersecurity protections to keep Americans’ data safe. In addition, earlier this month, the senators introduced a bipartisan bill that would increase transparency and modernize how the government responds to cybersecurity incidents on federal information systems. The Senate also unanimously approved their legislation to promote stronger cybersecurity coordination between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and state and local governments. Peters has also introduced bipartisan legislation to improve access to cybersecurity resources and training for small businesses, support K-12 schools with the resources they need to bolster their cybersecurity and ensure that America is prepared to respond to and recover in the event of a major cyber incident.