Republican chairman to highlight threats of ransomware, botnets in cyber hearing

Republican chairman to highlight threats of ransomware, botnets in cyber hearing

The Republican chairman of a Senate committee with oversight of the Department of Homeland Security will highlight the emerging trends of ransomware and botnets at a cybersecurity hearing on Wednesday. 

In opening remarks, Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonContinued efforts to pass 'right to try' legislation should fail GOP, Dem lawmakers come together for McCain documentary House to vote to send 'right to try' bill to Trump’s desk next week MORE (R-Wisc.) will point to the recent hack targeting Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” television series and cyberattacks on Ukraine’s power grid as evidence of growing cyber threats, according to excerpts provided to The Hill. 

The full Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs will seek answers from a number of experts on the cybersecurity threat landscape on Wednesday morning. The meeting will represent the committee’s first cyber-focused hearing of the new Congress.

“The potential negative consequences of cybersecurity threats have no limit. Recently, a cybercriminal scammed two leading American technology companies out of $100 million,” Johnson will say, according to prepared remarks. 

“Emerging trends include the rise of ransomware and botnets as easy-to-use tactics that offer big rewards for cybercriminals. Ransomware, which consists of malware that encrypts data until the user pays a fee, is becoming more profitable and popular, even among less-sophisticated criminals,” the senator will say. 

Johnson’s remarks will also refer to the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack targeting web services provider Dyn last year, which leveraged infected internet-connected devices and took down popular websites like Twitter and PayPal.

Congressional committees have held a number of hearings focused on the cyber threat landscape in recent months, seeking answers on how to shore up the government’s cybersecurity efforts and defenses.

There has been much focus on cybersecurity efforts at DHS, which is responsible for safeguarding federal networks and U.S. critical infrastructure. The department is also in charge of sharing information on cyber threats with the private sector, state and local governments, and international partners. 

Senators will hear testimony on Wednesday from several experts, including Jeffrey Greene, senior director of global government affairs and policy at Symantec, and Steven Chabinsky, who leads a data, privacy and cybersecurity practice at law firm White & Case. 

Chabinsky was also a member of the Obama-era commission tasked with making recommendations on enhancing national cybersecurity last year.