The Colonial Pipeline hack sparks concerns about economic security

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with Aaron Schaffer

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Top members of the House Homeland Security Committee say the Biden administration needs to produce a plan to secure the economy in the wake of a major cyberattack.

Lawmakers argue the recent hack of the Colonial Pipeline, which provides 45 percent of the fuel for the East Coast and forced the company to shut down operations for nearly a week, highlights the critical nature of such a plan.

Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), the ranking Republican on Homeland Security, and Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), want the Biden administration to implement a strategy for ensuring the continuous operation of critical economic functions in the event of a significant cyber disruption. The power to do so was approved in last year’s defense authorization bill, but has not been put in place.

Last week, we witnessed the exact reason this provision was enacted into law and why we supported it. The question now becomes one of implementation, Katko and Thompson wrote in a letter to President Biden. In the wake of the Colonial ransomware attack and its cascading effects along a large portion of the United States, we believe the Administration should act expeditiously to use this authority to ensure the resiliency of the economy.” 

The administration has taken a number of steps to address cybersecurity in light of recent emergencies.

Biden last week signed an executive order outlining more rigorous cybersecurity requirements for software providers that contract with the federal government. The administration has also launched a series of 100-day initiatives to improve cybersecurity in critical infrastructure, including the electric grid and oil and gas pipelines.

While the efforts have received broad support in Congress, Katko and Thompson say they’re not a substitute for an emergency strategy.

While thankfully Colonial has begun the process to restore operations, the incident highlights the criticality and interdependencies of our nation’s critical infrastructure, they wrote. We as a nation can and must do more.

The letter requests a briefing from the White House about its plans. The White House declined to comment.

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