Despite the insistence among congressional Democrats that the unrest of Jan. 6 represents an ongoing threat to the republic, Senate Sergeant at Arms Karen Gibson declared on Saturday that potential cyberattacks on the Capitol are actually a far more pressing danger, as Fox News reports.
During an interview with CNN, Gibson made it clear that intrusion attempts on U.S. government computer networks happen daily, and given the recent wave of ransomware attacks on corporate enterprises in the energy and food supply sectors, the risk of harm is very real, indeed.
“I worry a lot more about cybersecurity than I do about another mob attacking the Capitol,” opined the chief law enforcement officer for the upper chamber, who added, “Cybersecurity for me is a much greater concern than the prospect of thousands of people storming the West Terrace.”
As Politico noted, Gibson asserted that while there is a strong team of cybersecurity professionals in place within the federal government, the risks posed by possible exposure of critical data must not be ignored.
“Members have sensitive information that they would not necessarily want to have disclosed that may be in documents. Much of what we do is public. And meant to be so,” Gibson said, while adding, “But I would worry about….nation-state actors or others who might try to just really cripple the government’s ability to function by locking down cybercommunication networks.”
Gibson’s comments come as President Joe Biden has, via executive order, prioritized a review and possible overhaul of the federal approach to cybersecurity matters in the aftermath of the Russia-based attack on Texas-based Solar Winds.
The Department of Justice also recently announced that it will be stepping up the level of attention paid to ferreting out those responsible for ransomware attacks, assigning such matters a priority level on par with terrorism, as Fox News reported separately.
In detailing the very real dangers posed by cyberattackers to key facets of America’s economy, Gibson stated, “I’ve often thought of that as sort of the soft underbelly of America – the critical infrastructure that’s in private sector hands, and may or may not be secured to the extent that we need it to be, as we saw, perhaps, with the Colonial Pipeline ransomware incident,” referencing the May attack which led to fuel supply disruptions and price increases across a large swath of the eastern United States.
Gibson made it clear that “there are many opportunities for those who wish us harm to do so, in a cyber domain,” and that “it’s certainly going to keep the cybersecurity staff very busy for the foreseeable future.” Whether the current deployment of enhanced resources succeeds in thwarting these potentially devastating attacks remains to be seen.