At this point, it’s not a secret that critical infrastructure faces several obstacles ranging in physical and cyber threats. Some of the keys to preventing them, though, may come in the form of financial and governmental support. As Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich) stated, “Recent cyber-attacks against critical infrastructure companies, such as the network breach of a major oil pipeline, highlighted the urgent need to secure, and if necessary, support recovery efforts for, these systems when they experience major breaches.” It is in consideration of this urgency that President Biden is preparing to sign a $1.2 trillion bill into law that will allocate funding for enhancing infrastructure strength. According to a release from the White House, “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal is the largest investment in the resilience of physical and natural systems in American history.” Included in it is $1 billion for state, local, tribal and territorial governments to upgrade systems, a $100 million cyber response and recovery fund as well as a provision requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to work with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on securing networks associated with water supply operators.
Such measures come as other leaders continue to sound the alarm for critical infrastructure risks. The CISA has issued a directive offering a service that would track vulnerabilities and dictate timelines for federal agencies to correct them. When recently addressing the House Homeland Security Committee, Jen Easterly, director of the CISA, emphasized that, “ransomware has become a scourge on nearly every facet of our lives, and it’s a prime example of the vulnerabilities that are emerging as our digital and our physical infrastructure increasingly converges.” She was joined by National Cyber Director Chris Inglis who added that another major goal is to organize ways to protect privately owned critical infrastructure, which accounts for 85% of the total according to Insurance Journal.
A looming source of such cyberattacks that may eventually mandate more policy attention comes from foreign groups such as those based out of Russia. While Inglis noted a silver lining in the decrease of Russian-led cyberattacks since President Joe Biden met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he also spoke about the need to sustain this oversight. This is particularly important as warnings from the Ukrainian government grow. The Washington Times reported that the “Security Service of Ukraine is accusing Russia of conducting more than 5,000 cyberattacks on Ukrainian critical infrastructure and government entities since 2014.” They believe that hackers have been targeting power plants, water supply networks and information systems. In the meantime, the Biden administration has not officially acted on the accusations. However, the Washington Times article shares that there is a current debate happening over how to handle the situation.
- “White House Highlights Cybersecurity Benefit in Infrastructure Package” – Mariam Baksh, Nextgov
- “‘American Way of Life’ at Risk From Cyber Attacks, Top U.S. Official Warns” – Jack Gillum and Rebecca Kern, Insurance Journal
- “Ukraine accuses Russia of 5,000-plus cyberattacks as Biden pushed Russia for aid” – Ryan Lovelace, The Washington Times