WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan today led an Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight Subcommittee hearing about cyber threats to state and local entities and the consequences of cyberattacks on national security, the economy, and citizens’ lives. Joining the hearing was Sunapee School District Superintendent Russ Holden, who Senator Hassan invited to testify to share with the public how the District navigated a 2019 cyberattack.
To watch Senator Hassan’s hearing, click here. Senator Hassan’s opening statement begins at approximately 13:10 and her questioning begins at approximately 48:40.
Witnesses in today’s hearing included Russell Holden, Superintendent of Sunapee School District in New Hampshire; Karen Huey, Assistant Director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety; B. Glen Whitley, County Judge for Tarrant County, Texas; and Stephen M. Schewel, Mayor of Durham, North Carolina. The subcommittee also heard from cybersecurity expert Dan Lips, Vice President for National Security and Government Oversight at the Lincoln Network.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need for increased cybersecurity,” Senator Hassan said during the hearing. She also noted how state and local governments were particularly vulnerable to attack, only spending a small portion of their overall IT budgets on cybersecurity. In her opening remarks, she cited the often untold impact: “While the SolarWinds, Colonial Pipeline, and JBS meatpacking cyberattacks rightly received a lot of attention in recent months, state, local, and tribal entities have also faced serious cyberattacks that can cripple services for citizens and decimate local budgets.”
After ransomware attacks hit Strafford County and Sunapee School District in New Hampshire, Senator Hassan met with officials to discuss what more the federal government can do to help prepare for and combat these attacks. When asked by Senator Hassan if Sunapee School District Superintendent Holden would make additional investments in cybersecurity if given more federal resources, the Superintendent said, “Yes, absolutely. Our ability to improve our resources greatly has an impact on our financial situation.”
Throughout the hearing, the Senator heard from witnesses who highlighted the need and desire to make greater investments in cybersecurity but struggled to invest more because of the resource constraints they faced. They agreed with Senator Hassan that the ability to share information at the federal, state, and local level would be beneficial. Senator Hassan is currently working to craft a dedicated cybersecurity grant program for state and local governments.
Senator Hassan has prioritized efforts to address state and local cybersecurity threats as a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) and the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus. In January, Senators Hassan and Cornyn introduced a bipartisan bill to support the National Guard’s role in helping state and local governments improve their cybersecurity infrastructure. The most recent National Defense Authorization Act included a measure led by Senators Hassan and Cornyn to establish a Cybersecurity State Coordinator position in every state.