July 31–Another day, another data breach. United Airlines stood Thursday as the focal point of the latest disclosed purloining of customer information.
Congress, meanwhile, has likely left cybersecurity legislation for consideration until after its August break.
Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt said the possibility always exists for Americans to be attacked by hackers on anything from the nation’s electrical grid to its financial sector.
“If people really feel that,” he said, “Congress is going to have to explain why we just couldn’t quite get to this.”
A Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr. Blunt has become a leading voice on efforts to strengthen the nation’s defenses against hackers.
Earlier in the year, he identified legislation to combat cyber threats as part of a bipartisan agenda that could be achieved by Congress this year. Last month, delivering the Republicans’ weekly radio address, he touted a defense spending bill that, among many other things, addressed cyberspace threats by “evaluating vulnerabilities and directing upgrades sooner rather than later.”
But a stalled debate on the federal Highway Bill, in addition to a deliberation on defunding Planned Parenthood, left those senators advocating cybersecurity legislation with no time to advance their cause.
The Missourian has not been a lone wolf on the subject. On the ABC program “This Week” on Sunday, Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney general, fielded a question about foreign enemies developing the capacity for cyber attacks.
“That is the thing that keeps me and many of my colleagues in law enforcement up at night,” she said.
On the Senate floor Monday, Sen. Steve Daines, a Montana Republican, worried that “our country’s most sensitive data can be in the hands of our enemies at the mere click of a button or press of a screen.”
The United hacking incident has been linked to earlier reported security breaches involving the medical insurance company Anthem and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The attacks are thought to have Chinese origins.
Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, who chairs a Senate subcommittee overseeing data security, called earlier this month for answers about what happened in the stealing of personnel information from the federal agency.
“The 22 million Americans who have had their personal privacy violated and sensitive information stolen by hackers continue to wait for answers from OPM and the administration,” the Kansas Republican said.
The Government Accountability Office this week put out a report about the Defense Department’s need to curb utility disruptions at its facilities. A susceptibility to cyber incursions enters into this picture.
“Without overcoming these challenges, DOD’s (control systems) may be vulnerable to cyber incidents that could degrade operations and negatively impact missions,” the report said.
Mr. Blunt, in a conference call with Missouri reporters on Wednesday, called himself “disappointed” the Senate did not vote on a cybersecurity bill before the late-summer recess. He noted, though, that the U.S. House did not have a companion bill ready to be reconciled in conference committee.
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