Hillicon Valley: Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack | Senate debates sweeping Chinese competitiveness bill | Ohio files lawsuit to declare Google a public utility

Hillicon Valley: Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack | Senate debates sweeping Chinese competitiveness bill | Ohio files lawsuit to declare Google a public utility
© Andrew Caballero-Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. If you don’t already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter by clicking HERE. 

Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage.

Colonial Pipeline’s top executive appeared on Capitol Hill Tuesday at the first of two hearings on the recent ransomware attack that forced the company to shut down operations and led to gas shortages. Meanwhile, the Senate debated approving the massive bipartisan U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) filed a lawsuit to classify Google as a public utility and make it subject to government regulation. 


COLONIAL FACES THE MUSIC: Colonial Pipeline President and CEO Joseph Blount was grilled by lawmakers Tuesday on his decision to pay hackers in a ransomware attack that forced a temporary shutdown of operations — and led to gas shortages in parts of the country.

During a sometimes-tense Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, Blount indicated that the company did not consult with the FBI and other agencies before it paid the equivalent of $4.4 million in bitcoin to regain control of its systems. 

“It was our understanding that the decision was solely ours as a private company to make the decision about whether to pay or not to pay,” Blount said in response to a question from Sen. Gary PetersGary PetersLawmakers rally around cyber legislation following string of attacks Absences force Senate to punt vote on Biden nominee Senate Democrats investing M in Defend the Vote initiative MORE (D-Mich.), the panel’s chairman.

“Considering the consequences of potentially not bringing the pipeline back on as quickly as I possibly could, I chose the option to make the ransom payment,” he said.

Blount apologized for the impact of the attack but stressed that he had no regrets.

“I believe with all my heart it was the right choice to make,” Blount testified. 

Colonial provides 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel. Shortages were seen in several states for more than a week following the shutdown. 


Blount’s testimony came a day after Justice Department officials announced that they had recovered the majority of the ransom paid by Colonial to the DarkSide ransomware group.

Read more about the hearing here. 


TAKE THAT, CHINA: The Senate on Tuesday debated approving bipartisan legislation that would invest billions to put the U.S. on more even footing with China on a range of emerging technology issues, including addressing the semiconductor shortage and funding critical research.

The bill still faces pushback from a number of Senate Republicans who argue it is not strong enough to confront China, though the level of opposition is unlikely to derail the package, which will need to pass the House before it can be sent to President BidenJoe BidenExpanding child tax credit could lift 4 million children out of poverty: analysis Maria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back MORE’s desk. Voting in the Senate began Tuesday afternoon. 

Want to know more details of exactly what is included in the almost 1,500 page bill? Here is a breakdown of five key issues addressed in the massive bipartisan bill, including semiconductor funding, cybersecurity measures, and prioritization of research into emerging technologies. 

Read the five issues here. 


PILING IT ON: Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) on Tuesday filed a lawsuit asking the court to declare Google a public utility, which would subject the Silicon Valley giant to government regulation. 

Yost’s complaint, filed in Delaware County Court, alleges Google has used its dominance as a search engine to prioritize its own products over “organic search results” in a way that “intentionally disadvantages competitors.” 

“Google uses its dominance of internet search to steer Ohioans to Google’s own products--that's discriminatory and anti-competitive,” Yost said in a statement. “When you own the railroad or the electric company or the cellphone tower, you have to treat everyone the same and give everybody access."

Ohio is the first state to bring such a lawsuit against Google, but it adds to a growing list of antitrust battles the tech giant is facing. 

A Google spokesperson said Yost’s lawsuit would “make Google Search results worse and make it harder for small businesses to connect directly with customers.” 

Read more about the lawsuit.


IT NEVER STOPS: A tech vendor used by dozens of House offices on Capitol Hill for constituent outreach services has reportedly been hit by a ransomware attack, becoming the latest victim in a series of cyberattacks to target U.S.-based entities.

Punchbowl News reported Tuesday that almost 60 House offices, from both parties, have not been able to retrieve constituent information from the vendor iConstituent for several weeks.

The company is reportedly working with Catherine Szpindor, chief administrative officer of the House, to resolve the issue, but Punchbowl noted that frustration is mounting, as the incident has not yet been fixed.

Szpindor said there is no evidence that suggests wider House information technology systems have been breached or compromised, according to Punchbowl.

“The Office of the Chief Administrative Officer was notified by iConstituent that their e-newsletter system was hit with a ransomware attack. iConstituent’s e-newsletter system is an external service available for House offices to purchase. At this time, the CAO is not aware of any impact to House data,” Szpindor said in a statement to the news outlet.

Read more here. 



THIS SEEMS FINE: Millions of internet-connected Amazon devices around the country will be connected to the company’s Sidewalk network starting Tuesday, despite privacy concerns.

The internet-sharing network connects nearby devices via Bluetooth and radio frequencies, allowing them to stay connected to the internet via other Sidewalk-enabled devices even if disconnected from home wireless networks.

The network has been available for Ring Spotlight and Floodlight cameras since last year. Starting Tuesday, most Echo devices will have the feature activated, while Tile trackers will connect on June 14. 

Users have the option to opt-out, and internet searches for Amazon Sidewalk turn up dozens of articles on how to do so.

Read more about the change here. 



MAJOR OUTAGE: Multiple news and social media websites were unavailable Tuesday morning, with some reports suggesting a global internet outage may have forced the sites offline.

Reuters reported that websites for The New York Times, Bloomberg News, the Financial Times and the Guardian all faced outages, but appear to be back online.

According to a photo posted by a reporter on Twitter, the Times’s website said “connection failure” during the outage.

Read more about the incident here. 

Lighter click: No pet, no play

An op-ed to chew on: Private companies need federal support to protect our critical infrastructure



Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax (ProPublica / Jesse Eisinger, Jeff Ernsthausen and Paul Kiel)

Steven Crowder’s bigotry has found a home on TikTok (Media Matters for America / Olivia Little)

She Sent Her iPhone to Apple. Repair Techs Uploaded Her Nudes to Facebook (Motherboard / Matthew Gault)

Urban tunnels by Musk's Boring Co. draw industry skepticism (NBC News / Cyrus Farivar)

Chinese hackers implicated in breach of Russian government agencies (CyberScoop / Sean Lyngaas)