Ron Johnson calls cyber attacks an ‘existential’ threat following Colonial Pipeline shutdown
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said Sunday that the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline that forced its shutdown exposed the “vulnerabilities” in the U.S. electrical grid that could pose an “existential” threat to the country’s energy system.
Colonial Pipeline, which runs gasoline and jet fuel from Texas to New York, announced Saturday that it had officially returned to “normal operations” a week after it was forced to shut down following a ransomware attack on its infrastructure.
The FBI later confirmed that the cyber criminal gang DarkSide, based in Eastern Europe, was behind the attack.
While the company said that it had no plans to pay the ransom, Bloomberg News later reported that it had paid nearly $5 million to the group within hours of the attack.
The White House later declined to confirm whether a payment took place.
Johnson, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in an interview with John Catsimatidis on his WABC 770 AM radio show that there are “no easy solutions” to cybersecurity threats.
However, the country should take away from the Colonial Pipeline hack “how incredibly vulnerable our fuel grid is, our electrical grid is.”
Johnson argued that President Biden’s plans to transition the U.S. to cleaner energy could further increase the vulnerability of America’s energy systems.
“We are a fossil fuel fuel-based economy and will be a fossil fuel-based economy for decades,” the Wisconsin senator argued. “We need to recognize that, harden our grid under that reality, and don’t make ourselves more vulnerable with the Green New Deal.”
Last month Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) reintroduced a resolution in support of a Green New Deal, including transitioning the country to zero-emission energy sources and removing pollution through investing in zero-emission vehicles, public transit and high-speed rail.
Republicans have consistently opposed the Green New Deal, dismissing it as an extreme proposal that would give the government too much power over energy production.
Johnson in his interview said that a transition to solar panels or other forms of renewable energy could also make the country more vulnerable to cyber attacks.
“With everybody hooking up their solar panels and hooking into the grid so they can get a few shekels for the electricity they’re selling into the grid, we become more and more vulnerable,” he argued, adding that doing so will create “more points of contact that cyber-attackers can exploit.”
“We really need to change the direction we’re headed in here,” he continued. “No administration has paid sufficient attention to the vulnerabilities of our electrical grid.”
“This could be existential,” Johnson said.
John Catsimatidis is an investor for The Hill.