Blumenthal: 'Cybersecurity Is National Security'

(Washington) – Today, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) delivered a speech on the floor of the Senate, pushing for Congress to continue work on the bipartisan cybersecurity bill which will strengthen national security and the security of businesses and individuals throughout the country. Below is a full transcript of his floor speech:

I thank the Senator from Rhode Island most importantly for his extraordinary work on this issue, his leadership and vision as well as his courage. And I want to emphasize a number of the points that he made so powerfully in his remarks earlier. 

The first is, most significantly, the United States today is under attack. We are under cyber-attack. The question is how we respond. It is our national interests that are at stake. And every day this nation suffers attempted intrusions, attempted interference, attempted theft of our intellectual property as a result of the ongoing attack that we need to stop and deter and answer. 

National security is indistinguishable from cybersecurity. In fact, cybersecurity is a matter of national security. Not only insofar as our defense capabilities, our actual weapons systems are potentially under attack and interference. But also, as my colleague from Rhode Island said so well, because our critical infrastructure, are every day at risk. Our facilities in transportation, our financial system, our utilities that power our great cities and our rural areas, and our intellectual property, which is so valuable and which every day is at risk – in fact, is taken from us wrongfully at great cost to our nation. 

The number and sophistication of cyber-attacks has increased dramatically over the past five years and all of the warnings – they are bipartisan warnings – say those attacks will continue and will be mounting with increasing intensity. In fact, experts say that with enough time, enough motivation, enough funding, a determined adversary can penetrate nearly any system that is accessible directly from the internet. The United States today is vulnerable. And to take the Pearl Harbor analogy that our Secretary of Defense has drawn so well, we have our ships sitting unprotected today as they were at the time of Pearl Harbor. Our ships today are not just our vessels in the seas, but our institutions sitting in this country and around the world. Our critical infrastructure that is equally vulnerable to sophisticated and unsophisticated hackers. In fact, the threat ranges from the hackers in developing countries, unsophisticated hackers, to foreign agents who want to steal our nation's secrets through terrorists who seek ways to disrupt that critical infrastructure. 

And it is not a matter simply of convenience. We're not talking here about temporary dislocations like the loss of electricity that the Capitol area suffered recently or that our states of New England suffered as a result of the recent storms last fall. We're talking about permanent, severe, lasting disruptions and dislocation of our financial and our power systems that may be caused by this interference. One international group, for example, accessed a financial company’s internal computer network and stole millions of dollars in just 24 hours. Another such criminal group accessed online commercial banking accounts and spread malicious computer viruses that cost our financial institutions nearly $70 million. One company that was recently the victim of an intrusion determined that it lost ten years' worth of research and development valued at $1 billion. That is billion with a "b," virtually overnight. 

These losses are not just to the shareholders of these companies. They are to all of us who live in the United States, because the losses in many instances are losses of information to defense companies that produce our weapons systems, losses of property that has been developed at great cost to them and to our taxpayers. So we should all be concerned about such losses, as Sean Henry, the executive director of the F.B.I., has said – and I'm quoting – "the cyber threat is an existential one" meaning that a major cyber-attack could potentially wipe out whole companies. End of quote. 

Those threats to our critical infrastructure, as you have heard so powerfully from my colleague from Rhode Island, are widespread and spreading. Industrial control systems that help control our pipelines, railroads, water treatment facilities, power plants are at an elevated risk today. Not at some point in the future. Today. The F.B.I. warns that successful cyber-attack against an electrical grid could cause serious damage to parts of our cities and ultimately even kill people. The Department of Homeland Security said last year that it has received nearly 200 reports of suspected cyber incidents, more than four times the number of incidence reported in 2010. In one incident more than 100 computers at a nuclear energy firm were infected with a virus that could have been used to take complete control of that company's system. These reports, these warnings go on. But in summary, the director of the F.B.I. said it best – quote – "we are losing data. We are losing money. We are losing ideas and we are losing innovation." Those threats are existential to our nation, and we must address them now. Not simply as a luxury, not as a possibility, but as a need now. 

And I want to thank the Senator from Rhode Island as well as my distinguished fellow Senator from Connecticut, Joseph Lieberman, and others on the other side of the aisle, such as Senators McCain, Collins, Graham, Chambliss, as well as our colleagues on this side, for their leadership in this area. They have started this effort with great dedication. There has been substantial work done already. No one here has ignored this threat. And we must move forward for the sake of our nation's security, our cybersecurity must be addressed as soon as possible. Cybersecurity is not an issue that we can wait to address until we see the results of failure. The consequences of a debilitating attack would be catastrophic to our nation. And I hope that we can continue to build a consensus that the Senator from Rhode Island has been working to do, and others of our colleagues equally so, so that we can come together, as he said, not whether but how, and do it in a bipartisan way that this issue has elicited very commendably, very impressively. Colleagues from both sides of the aisle have been working on this issue with dedication and diligence. And I hope that the body as a whole will match the vigor that is appropriate. 

And I want to again thank the Senator from Rhode Island. Part of our challenge will be to elicit better agency coordination. And if the Senator from Rhode Island wishes to comment further, I hope that perhaps he can respond to the question of how soon we should come together and work on this issue. Is it a problem we can delay until the next session or should we try to address it during the coming months of this session before we close?

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Press Contact

Kamara Jones (Washington) 202-224-0309
Kamara_Jones@blumenthal.senate.gov
Alex J. Armentano (Connecticut) 860-488-2928
Alex_Armentano@blumenthal.senate.gov