Lawmakers press Biden to create plan to secure economy after Colonial Pipeline attack

Courtesy Colonial Pipeline

The bipartisan leaders of the House Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday urged President Biden to ensure there is a plan in place to ensure the nation’s economy is not disrupted by a major cyberattack.

The concerns, voiced as part of a letter sent to Biden by Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and ranking member Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), come on the heels of the ransomware attack earlier this month on Colonial Pipeline. 

The pipeline, which provides 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel, was forced to shut down operations for almost a week, causing gas shortages in around a dozen states. 

“The attack on Colonial presented a troubling situation, halting services from the largest fuel pipeline on the U.S. East Coast,” the lawmakers wrote Tuesday. “While thankfully Colonial has begun the process to restore operations, the incident highlights the criticality and interdependencies of our nation’s critical infrastructure. We as a nation can and must do more.”

Katko and Thompson pointed to the need to implement a clause in the most recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which requires the president to create a continuity of the economy plan in the event of a significant incident that impacts national security, such as a cyberattack. 

Following the attack on Colonial, one of the largest on a U.S. utility in history, the lawmakers stressed the need to implement such a plan as soon as possible. 

“Last week, we witnessed the exact reason this provision was enacted into law and why we supported it,” Katko and Thompson wrote. “In the wake of the Colonial ransomware attack and its cascading effects along a large portion of the United States, we believe the Administration should act expeditiously to use this authority to ensure the resiliency of the economy.”

The White House did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment on the letter.

Biden and his administration have taken a series of steps in recent weeks to strengthen the nation’s cybersecurity, particularly following two other major cyberattacks since December which compromised thousands of organizations.

The SolarWinds incident, carried out by Russian government hackers, compromised nine federal agencies and at least 100 private-sector groups for months prior to discovery in December. New vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s Exchange Server program, which the company announced in March, compromised potentially thousands of other organizations.

Biden last week signed an executive order to take a series of actions to improve federal cybersecurity. The administration also kickstarted a 100-day plan to shore up the cybersecurity of the electric sector, and Biden previously announced that initiatives will also shortly begin focused on other critical infrastructure, including pipelines.

The House leaders stressed Tuesday that following the multiple cyberattacks, it was essential that the nation be prepared to face mounting cyber threats.

“As recent events have shown, it is vital that we have a more holistic understanding of the dependencies across connected systems that underpin our way of life and allow our economy to function,” Katko and Thompson wrote.

Tags Bennie Thompson Biden Colonial Pipeline Company Colonial Pipeline hack Cyberattack House Homeland Security Committee Joe Biden John Katko

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