Senate sergeant at arms says cyberattack a bigger threat than Jan. 6 repeat

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Senate Sergeant at Arms Karen Gibson said Saturday that she finds the threat of a cyberattack on the U.S. Capitol more worrisome than another repeat of the Jan. 6 assault

“I worry a lot more about cybersecurity than I do about another mob attacking the Capitol,” the Senate’s chief law enforcement officer for the Senate told CNN.

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Gibson said attempted intrusions on the Capitol networks occur on a daily basis, and with the recent rise in ransomware attacks, cybersecurity has become a greater risk.

“Cybersecurity for me is a much greater concern than the prospect of thousands of people storming the West Terrace,” she said.

“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,” she explained, adding there is a growing concern foreign adversaries are using nefarious means to cripple the U.S. government. 

Gibson’s comments come just days after the latest major victim of ransomware, Brazil-based JBS — the world’s largest meat processing company with operations in the U.S. — resumed production after being shuttered for roughly four days. 

FBI officials attributed the attack to the same Russian criminal group that targeted the East Coast’s Colonial pipeline last month, REvil.

It remains unclear if JBS paid a ransom, but the attack on the largest U.S. fuel pipeline cost Colonial nearly $4.5 million dollars so the company could regain access to its system. 

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President Biden called for a federal overhaul of the government’s approach to cybersecurity in a May executive order, following the Russia-led Solar Winds attack.

The Justice Department also announced earlier this week it is elevating the priority it places on ransomware attacks.

The Biden administration has urged the private sector to more heavily invest in countering cybersecurity.

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“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. There are many opportunities for those who wish us harm to do so, in a cyber domain,” Gibson said. “It’s certainly going to keep the cybersecurity staff very busy for the foreseeable future.”

The White House has said Biden, during his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva June 16, will address the recent flurry of Russia-based cyberattacks.