Cassidy on pipeline cyberattack: Congress must equip businesses with defenses against incursions

Cassidy on pipeline cyberattack: Congress must equip businesses with defenses against incursions
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bill CassidyBill CassidyBipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Sights and sounds from Biden's UK visit Democrats wary of emerging bipartisan infrastructure deal MORE (R-La.) responded to news of a cyberattack that forced the temporary closure of one of the largest fuel pipelines in the U.S. with a call for congressional action to help businesses guard against future incursions.

Cassidy said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the ransomware attack is the latest evidence of the need for an "ongoing" and "bipartisan" discussion in Congress focused on how to help U.S. businesses and other entities guard against cyber incursions.

"There’s been problems in the past with sharing classified information with private entities. And Congress has passed a law to fix that," Cassidy said of critical infrastructure being controlled by private companies. "But it's going to take an ongoing relationship. By the way, a bipartisan relationship in which we better equip small businesses and large businesses to withstand cyberattacks."

The centrist Louisiana senator, who has led Republican efforts to engage with Democrats on infrastructure discussions in recent weeks, added that he thought the issue could be one in which bipartisan compromise is possible due to the serious national security implications of the attack.

"The implications for this, for our national security, cannot be overstated," he said. "And I promise you, this is something that Republicans and Democrats can work together on."

Colonial Pipeline Company announced the hack on Friday, telling news outlets that it had "proactively [taken] certain systems offline to contain the threat, which has temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of our IT systems."

The attack was described as ransomware, which uses malicious code to lock down systems and critical data until a digital "ransom," usually in the form of bitcoin, is paid to the perpetrators.

The shutdown affected "the largest refined products pipeline in the United States," the company said in a statement on its website.

"At this time, our primary focus is the safe and efficient restoration of our service and our efforts to return to normal operation. This process is already underway, and we are working diligently to address this matter and to minimize disruption to our customers and those who rely on Colonial Pipeline," said the company.