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Cyberattacks on US targets are ‘here to stay,’ says US commerce secretary

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo pictured on Jan. 8, 2021, in Wilmington, Delaware. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/TNS)

Regular cyberattacks, targeting everything from businesses to basic infrastructure, are the new normal, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Sunday.

U.S. businesses and lawmakers are struggling and have a long way to go to bolster cyberdefenses after the May attack on the country’s biggest gas pipeline, she said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“We should assume and businesses should assume that these attacks are here to stay and, if anything, will intensify,” she said.

The White House last week sent a letter to business leaders urging them to take ransomware attacks — in which hackers effectively hold a company’s systems hostage until money is paid — more seriously, she said.

“It is clear that the private sector needs to be more vigilant … including small- and medium-sized companies. And also, President Biden has been clear that we are going to do more,” Raimondo said, pointing to the president’s sweeping infrastructure agenda.

The American Jobs Plan, which has stalled in Congress, includes $20 billion for states and localities to upgrade their defenses for energy infrastructure. There’s another $2 billion to boost protections for the electric grid in high-risk locations.

The commerce secretary shied away from suggesting the government should require businesses to beef up cybersecurity.

“Businesses know how to do this. It’s relatively inexpensive to do the simpler things like two-factor authentication,” she said. “At the moment we’re going to … pursue that versus … a little bit more heavy-handed approach.”

Last month, the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline caused gas distribution problems and panic buying in the Southeast. The world’s largest meat processing company was targeted in a separate attack.

The hacks have been traced to Russia, though U.S. officials haven’t formally blamed the Kremlin. Biden is set to meet with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin next week in Geneva.

Cyberattacks “will be at the top of the agenda,” according to Raimondo.

Asked whether military action was possible, she said, “All options are on the table.”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina sounded a hawkish note on cybersecurity.

“We need to go on offense. You can only play defense so long,” he told Gray TV.

“It’s time for the Russians to pay a price,” he said. “Cyberterrorism is emanating from Russia and we’re not doing a damn thing about it, and that needs to change.”

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm confirmed Sunday that foes of the U.S. have the capacity to shut down electric grids.

“There are very [malignant] actors who are trying even as we speak,” she told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“There are thousands of attacks on all aspects of the energy sector and the private sector generally.”


© 2021 New York Daily News

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