WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), chairman of the Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management (FSO) Subcommittee for the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), held a hearing on “State and Local Cybersecurity: Defending Our Communities from Cyber Threats Amid COVID-19.”
“Effective cybersecurity is an ongoing, everyday line of effort. The threat landscape is diverse. The best practices are constantly changing. The information you get may not always be reliable. The maintenance tasks can seem overwhelming, and, most importantly, the stakes are high. And in this context, I have often found myself thinking: effective cybersecurity cannot move at quote ‘the speed of government,'” Dr. Paul said in his opening statement.
As Americans continue to conduct more of their activities online due to the pandemic, including going virtual for school and sensitive needs such as consultations with physicians, the subcommittee hearing examined cybersecurity threats faced by state and local governments, with a focus on concerns about ransomware attacks/cyber extortion in critical sectors such as health care and public education.
Over the past several months, a number of school districts around the country have been victims of ransomware attacks, including Fairfax County Public Schools in Northern Virginia — one of the largest public school districts in the country. Unfortunately, Fairfax County Public Schools declined to appear at the hearing or to give a reason for turning down the opportunity.
Earlier this year, the first day of school for Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut had to be postponed due to a ransomware attack, and, just this week, Baltimore County Public Schools were forced to close for multiple days for the same reason.
On September 17, the Associated Press reported that a Düsseldorf, Germany, woman died en route to a hospital in a neighboring city because the hospital in Düsseldorf had been taken off-line by a ransomware attack.
While this hearing was originally scheduled for September 22, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) forced its postponement by blocking the Senate from conducting committee business in protest of President Donald Trump’s then-upcoming selection of future Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
In an example of how Washington should function, Dr. Paul worked in close cooperation with subcommittee Ranking Member Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) to craft the hearing.
You can find Dr. Paul’s opening statement HERE, and you can watch the entire hearing HERE.
Acting Director, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
New Hampshire Department of Information Technology
Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Hartford Public Schools
Senior Advisor for Cybersecurity and Risk
American Hospital Association
Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder