Sens. Warner, Blunt say ransomware attacks are a wake-up call

A bipartisan Senate duo said Sunday it “took gasoline and beef” for the U.S. to think seriously about ransomware attacks and there should be ways to punish countries that harbor hackers.

Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, said there ought to be international norms to respond after hackers — believed to be based in Russia— attacked the Colonial Pipeline, a critical U.S. fuel artery; the JBS Foods meat-processing company; and the Irish health system.

“We’ve been talking about cyber for a long time, but finally the American public is starting to wake up to the ramifications of these attacks,” Mr. Warner told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

He wants to pass bipartisan legislation that would require companies to notify the government when they get attacked. He said companies need to be transparent so law enforcement can go after the bad guys.

Appearing on the same program, Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said if the government demands higher standards from private companies it ought to be able to protect its own system, citing the SolarWinds attack last year that targeted federal agencies.

“They got in the government system as well. We didn’t know they were there. We don’t know how long they were there. We’re not absolutely sure they’re not there still,” Mr. Blunt told NBC.

He said there must be consequences for countries that aren’t doing enough to reel in rogue actors.

“You really have to treat Russia like it’s virtually a criminal enterprise,” Mr. Blunt said. “You know, they harbor criminals, they, they don’t appreciate the rule of law or any kind of level of personal freedom. And I do think we have to push back.”

The White House says President Biden will raise the ransomware issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin when the pair sit down in Switzerland on June 16.

“I’m glad this is getting the attention it’s now finally getting,” Mr. Blunt said. “It took gasoline and beef for us to think this is really a serious problem.”

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