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Public Statements

Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Madam President, I thank the Senator from Rhode Island, my distinguished colleague, for those very generous remarks. Actually, I had four arguments in the Supreme Court. The rest was similarly exaggerated as to my qualifications. But I thank the Senator from Rhode Island. Most importantly, I thank him for his extraordinary work on this issue and for his leadership and vision as well as his courage.

I wish to emphasize a number of the points he made so powerfully in his remarks earlier. First and most significantly, the United States is under cyber attack. The question is, How do we respond? It is our national interests that are at stake.

Every day this Nation suffers attempted intrusions, attempted interference, and attempted theft of our intellectual property as a result of the ongoing attacks we need to stop, deter, and answer.

National security is indistinguishable from cybersecurity. In fact, cybersecurity is a matter of national security and not only so far 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 is every day at risk--our facilities in transportation, our financial systems, 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 and, 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 5 years. All the warnings--bipartisan warnings--say those attacks will continue and will be mounted with increasing intensity. In fact, experts say that with enough time, motivation, and funding, a determined adversary can penetrate nearly any system that is accessible directly from the Internet.

The United States today is vulnerable. To take the Pearl Harbor analysis that our Secretary of Defense has drawn so well, we have our ``ships'' sitting unprotected today, as they were at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. Our ships today are not just our vessels in the sea but our institutions sitting in this country and around the world, our critical infrastructure, which 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, to terrorists who seek ways to disrupt that critical infrastructure.

It is not a matter simply of convenience. We are not talking about temporary dislocations, such as the loss of electricity that the Capital area suffered recently or that our States in New England suffered as a result of the recent storms last fall; we are talking about permanent, severe, lasting disruptions and dislocations of our financial and 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

bank accounts and spread malicious computer viruses that cost our financial institutions nearly $70 million.

One company that was recently a victim of intrusion determined it lost 10 years' worth of research and development--valued at $1 billion--virtually overnight. These losses are not just for 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, losses of property that has been developed at great cost to them and to our taxpayers. We should all be concerned about such losses.

As Shawn Henry, the Executive Assistant Director of the FBI, has said: ``The cyber threat is an existential one, meaning that a major cyber attack could potentially wipe out whole companies.''

Those threats to our critical infrastructure, as we have heard so powerfully from my colleague from Rhode Island, are widespread and spreading.

Industrial control systems, which help control our pipelines, railroads, water treatment facilities, and powerplants, are at an elevated risk of cyber exploitation today--not at some point in the future but today. The FBI warns that a 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 that last year they had received nearly 200 reports of suspected cyber incidents, more than 4 times the number of incidents reported in 2010.

In one such 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.

In summary, the Director of the FBI said it best: ``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.

I thank the Senator from Rhode Island, as well as my distinguished fellow Senator from Connecticut, Joseph Lieberman, and others on the other side, such as Senators McCain, Collins, Graham, and Chambliss, as well as other 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. 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 we can wait to address until we see the results of failure. The consequences of a debilitating attack would be catastrophic to our Nation. I hope we can continue to fill the consensus, which the Senator from Rhode Island has been working to do, with other colleagues, so we can come together, as he said--not whether but how--and do it in a bipartisan way. This issue has elicited, very commendably and impressively, colleagues from both sides who have been working on this issue with dedication and diligence. I hope the body as a whole will match the vigor that is appropriate.

Again, I thank the Senator from Rhode Island. Part of our challenge will be to elicit better agency coordination. If the Senator from Rhode Island wishes to comment further, I hope 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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