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Lawmakers Eye Cybersecurity of Nation’s Transportation Infrastructure

January 7, 2022

U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a member of both the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-MS), are leading a bipartisan group of 10 Senators in a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas ​​and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg requesting information about the two Departments’ ability to meet their responsibilities, as co-Sector Risk Management Agencies (SRMA), to detect, prevent, and respond to cyber threats to the nation’s critical transportation infrastructure. Cyberattacks on American transportation infrastructure are escalating in frequency and severity. The William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 delineated specific responsibilities for SRMAs to secure critical infrastructure. 

A bipartisan group of Senators joined Senators Rosen and Wicker in sending this letter, including Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Rob Portman (R-OH) and Senators Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Todd Young (R-IN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and James Lankford (R-OK).

“Cyberattacks on American transportation infrastructure are escalating in frequency and severity, as evidenced by the ransomware attack earlier this year on Colonial Pipeline, one of the nation’s largest pipelines, which led to the shutdown of a network that carries nearly half the gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel for the East Coast. At the same time, many state and local transit agencies are not fully equipped to implement more than basic cybersecurity protections. In fact, a study by the Mineta Transportation Institute found that only 60% of transit agencies had a cybersecurity plan in place last year,” wrote the Senators. “As such, federal efforts to ensure that our nation is properly prepared to address cybersecurity threats to the transportation system require a delicate balance to provide critical assistance to entities that need new or additional cybersecurity support, while recognizing effective practices that some entities already have in place.”

“With this in mind, we request information about how DHS and DOT are meeting their six responsibilities as co-SMRAs,” the Senators continued. “Ransomware attacks on the transportation industry, just one derivative of cyber-attacks, increased by 186% between June 2020 and June 2021. Therefore, we request information on any efforts to update the Transportation Systems Sector-Specific Plan to provide the most effective assistance possible to improve the security and resilience posture of the nation’s transportation system.”

The full text of the letter can be found here.

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