Cybersecurity

Bipartisan group of senators press Mayorkas on US readiness for Russian cyberthreat

A bipartisan group of senators is pressing Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on the U.S.’s readiness for Russian cyberattacks amid Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The group of 22 senators, led by Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), penned a letter to Mayorkas on Sunday asking for a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) briefing on “efforts to protect the United States homeland from Russian government cyber and disinformation threats in the wake of Russia’s violent and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.”

The senators are specifically concerned that Russia may use cyber and disinformation activities to retaliate against the U.S. for crushing sanctions it has placed on Moscow in response to its war on Ukraine. The U.S. has imposed sweeping penalties on top Russian government officials, oligarchs, banks and businesses since Moscow began its invasion on Feb. 24. 

“As we stand with the Ukrainian people, imposing crushing sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s regime, and push for additional security assistance to help Ukraine defend itself, we also must work to secure the homeland from retaliatory cyber activities,” the senators wrote.

They noted Russia’s history of engaging in “malicious cyber activities, including espionage, intellectual property theft, disinformation, propaganda, and cyberattacks” that target the U.S., including the SolarWinds hack in 2020, which led to a series of data breached within federal agencies. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this month said the U.S. is “very much on guard” for a possible Russian cyberattack during its invasion of Ukraine, according to CNN.

The senators are specifically asking for a briefing to learn what the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is doing to monitor and proactively defend against potential Russian cyber threats and whether there is a plan in place if U.S. critical infrastructure is affected in a breach.

CISA’s website Monday morning said there are currently “no specific or credible cyber threats to the U.S. at this time.”

However, last month it issued a “Shields Up” alert for American organizations amid fears of a Russian attack. 

“While there are not currently any specific credible threats to the U.S. homeland, we are mindful of the potential for the Russian government to consider escalating its destabilizing actions in ways that may impact others outside of Ukraine,” CISA said in an alert issued on Feb. 12. 

The senators are also asking if specific U.S. entities or sectors are targets, and how CISA is providing technical support to them, in addition to questions over its Shields Up Technical Guidance.

Additionally, the senators asked Mayorkas about how DHS is defending against Russian disinformation efforts, how the disinformation threat level in the U.S. has changed since the invasion began and for information on CISA’s coordination with NATO allies and Ukraine.

The 20 additional signatories of the letter were Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Shelley Capito (R-W.Va.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Angus King (I-Maine), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). 

The Hill reached out to Mayorkas for comment.

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Alex Padilla Angus King Antony Blinken Bob Casey Catherine Cortez Masto Chris Van Hollen Cory Booker Dianne Feinstein Jacky Rosen Jeanne Shaheen Joe Manchin John Hickenlooper Kirsten Gillibrand Mark Kelly Michael Bennet Mike Braun Mike Rounds Raphael Warnock Sherrod Brown Susan Collins Tammy Duckworth Vladimir Putin

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