Senator calls for cybersecurity review at health agencies after hacking incident

Senator calls for cybersecurity review at health agencies after hacking incident
© Greg Nash

Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Senators raise concerns over Facebook's civil rights audit House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 MORE (D-Colo.) is calling on the three top federal health agencies to allow for an investigation into their cybersecurity defenses following an attempted hack of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

In a letter to the leaders of HHS, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday, Bennet “strongly urged” the agencies to allow the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to review the security of their systems.

“I urge CISA to perform a comprehensive review of all computer-based IT and network systems at HHS, CDC, and NIH to identify and address any vulnerabilities now to limit exposure to future cyber incidents,” wrote Bennet, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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Bennet emphasized the importance of shoring up cybersecurity for the three key agencies in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

“As this public health crisis continues, perhaps for several months, the security of these vital systems is critical to ensuring that our federal agencies responsible for public health can effectively support our response to the pandemic and continue to provide trusted and timely information to the American people,” Bennet wrote. 

The letter came on the heels of a cyberattack that targeted HHS earlier this week. According to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, hackers were not able to access any data and agency operations were not impacted. 

A spokesperson for CISA, which is the cyber arm of the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement following the incident that the agency “has taken a number of steps over the last several weeks to increase cybersecurity preparedness across federal civilian agencies,” and that it would “continue to support our partners at HHS as they protect their IT systems.”

Bennet has not been the only member of Congress to raise concerns about the cybersecurity of the federal agencies in recent days.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerGOP chairman vows to protect whistleblowers following Vindman retirement over 'bullying' Senators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls Hillicon Valley: Facebook takes down 'boogaloo' network after pressure | Election security measure pulled from Senate bill | FCC officially designating Huawei, ZTE as threats MORE (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told The Hill on Monday that he had “grave concerns” about the security of the health care sector. 

Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Chamber of Commerce endorses Cornyn for reelection Trump administration narrows suspects in Russia bounties leak investigation: report MORE (R-Neb.), a member of the committee, also said in a statement that there needed to be “consequences” for those who attack agencies like HHS during a crisis, saying in a statement it is like “kicking opponents when they’re down.”