Senators Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., have called on the Department of Commerce (DOC) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to further protect digital systems (including IoT), connected technologies, and the country from cybersecurity threats amid recent ransomware attacks.
In a July 28th letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, the two lawmakers urged the DOC to demonstrate new and existing cyber capabilities, develop the cybersecurity workforce, and ensure resilient supply chains.
Cantwell and Wicker urged the DOC to expand research in emerging technologies, such as quantum technology, artificial intelligence, advanced communications, and the Internet of things (IoT), to address cybersecurity challenges.
The senators also called on the DOC to advance and update the adoption of best practices in software supply chain management, in compliance with the Biden administration’s executive order on cybersecurity.
The DOC and NIST, according to the lawmakers, should deepen their critical cybersecurity role with ample funding that matches the seriousness of the threats.
“The President’s Budget Request to level-fund NIST cybersecurity programs, while requesting significant increases across the agency, is insufficient to meet the need,” the letter reads.
Cantwell is chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Wicker is the Senate panel’s ranking member.
The global consequences of ransomware attacks
The senators’ call for enhanced cybersecurity followed after a recent ransomware attack centered on Kaseya, a US-based IT firm. As a result, close to 1,500 businesses across the world were affected by the disruption, according to a Reuters report.
Kaseya provides software tools to IT outsourcing shops–companies that typically handle back-office work for smaller companies, or modestly resourced to have their own tech departments.
The company’s CEO, Fred Voccola, said it was hard to estimate the precise impact of the ransomware attack because those who were hit were customers of Kaseya’s customers.
Although most of those affected have been small concerns–like accountants or dentists’ offices –the disruption has been felt more keenly outside the US. Supermarkets across Sweden had to close because their cash registers were inoperative; in New Zealand, schools and kindergartens were knocked offline.
Ransomware attacks do not just affect one specific region. As recent events suggest, they have a ripple effect on businesses all over the world. As cybersecurity threats become more sophisticated, governments and private institutions have an opportunity to work together and combat current–even upcoming–breaches.