Cantwell to DHS Chief Mayorkas: “Urgent Need” to Harden Critical Energy Infrastructure Against Cyberattacks

Chair Cantwell also announces Commerce Committee Hearing to “examine what additional actions must be taken to further strengthen America’s cybersecurity defenses”

May 18, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today wrote to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas regarding the cybersecurity of America’s energy infrastructure in the wake of the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack.

“Having nearly half of the East Coast’s fuel supply crippled by a single ransomware incident highlights the urgent need to harden our nation’s critical infrastructure against computer errors, criminals, and hostile foreign adversaries,” Chair Cantwell wrote.

Chair Cantwell has been warning for years about America’s vulnerability to an attack of this kind—even issuing this warning during a 2017 Energy and Natural Resources hearing: “There is the issue of cybersecurity that keeps me up at night, thinking about potential hacks from Russia or foreign actors, as we see large-scale attacks happening in other places. If we do not make the necessary investments to prevent, defend against and minimize the impact of these cyberattacks, our enemies may succeed in causing us a widespread blackout or devastation to our economy.”

In 2018, Cantwell joined Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) to demand immediate action from the Department of Homeland Security on a series of recommendations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). In today’s letter to DHS, Chair Cantwell noted how little progress has been made on those recommendations.

“In December 2018, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Pallone and I wrote to former Secretary Nielson to express our concerns about weaknesses in the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) pipeline security management,” Chair Cantwell wrote. “It is extremely concerning that several of the GAO’s recommendations remain open, and I ask that you provide a status update on TSA’s action to address them.”

The Commerce Committee will soon be holding a hearing dedicated to exploring what more can be done to prevent future cyberattacks of this kind and better protect our nation’s critical infrastructure.

You can read Chair Cantwell’s full letter to Secretary Mayorkas HERE.