Ransomware

10 senators ask top federal officials for plan to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure

Fuel holding tanks are seen at Colonial Pipeline's Linden Junction Tank Farm on May 10, 2021, in Woodbridge, N.J. Senators pointed to the attack on Colonial Pipeline in a letter to federal officials asking for an update on government's ability to respond to cyberattacks against critical infrastructure. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

A bi-partisan group of 10 senators on Monday sent a letter to the heads of the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Transportation asking them for an update on what the two departments are doing to strengthen the nation’s ability to detect, prevent, and respond to cyberattacks on critical infrastructure.

The letter addressed to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and DoT Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that given the increased cyberthreats to the nation’s critical infrastructure, the United States must have the capabilities and resources to prevent any future cyber incidents. As a prime example, the senators cited last May’s attack on Colonial Pipeline that resulted in the shutdown of a network that carries nearly half the gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel for the East Coast.

“Federal efforts to ensure that our nation is properly prepared to address cybersecurity threats to the transportation system require a delicate balance to provide critical assistance to entities that need new or additional cybersecurity support, while recognizing effective practices that some entities already have in place,” wrote the senators.

As Co-Sector Risk Management Agencies, (Co-SRMAs), the senators asked how DHS and DoT plan to meet its six responsibilities under the current Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2021. The list includes the following: support risk sector management; assess sector risk; sector coordination; facilitating information sharing of information regarding physical security and cybersecurity threats within the designated sectors or subsectors; supporting incident management; and contributing to emergency preparedness efforts.

DHS and DoT were also asked to provide an update on how the two agencies will collaborate to avoid both gaps and redundancies in federal risk management, including specific roles for each agency and delineation of law enforcement and safety responsibilities.

The senators who signed the letter include six Republicans and four Democrats.

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