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Senators Again Urge Trump to Examine Threats Russian Hackers Pose to U.S. Energy Infrastructure

A group of Democratic senators is urging President Trump to direct the Department of Energy (DOE) to examine the threats Russian hackers pose to energy infrastructure in the United States, while accusing the administration of failing to respond to a similar request made three months earlier.

In a letter sent last Thursday, the group, led by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), called for the DOE and other relevant agencies to report within 60 days on "the scope of Russian capabilities to use cyber-warfare to threaten energy infrastructure, and the extent to which the Russians have already attempted cyber-intrusions into our electric grid, pipelines, and other important energy facilities."

The lawmakers sent a similar letter to the administration on March 14, but it went unanswered. In last week’s letter, they pointed to a Washington Post story that said a private cybersecurity firm suggested Russia has developed a malware program called CrashOverride specifically tailored to attack electric grids. The program allegedly was used successfully against a Ukrainian utility last year.

The lawmakers also blasted the administration's recently proposed budget for fiscal year 2018, which calls for a more than 40% cut in funding to the DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, "the very offices tasked with protecting our grid from Russian cyberattacks...

"How can our government protect our national security assets if the administration does not allocate the necessary resources?" they asked. "We are deeply concerned that your administration has not backed up a verbal commitment prioritizing cybersecurity of energy networks and fighting cyber aggression with any meaningful action."

Cantwell, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, opposed Rick Perry's nomination to head the DOE, in part over concerns about cybersecurity.

The other signatories were Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

Last month, the American Gas Association reported that no natural gas utilities were affected by WannaCry, a ransomware program that infected hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide.

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