Rep. Shontel Brown’s Opening Statement at Joint Subcommittee Hearing on Ransomware
Washington, D.C. (September 27, 2023)—Below is Rep Shontel Brown’s opening statement as prepared for delivery, at today’s joint hearing with the Subcommittees on Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Government Innovation, and on Economic Growth, Energy Policy, and Regulatory Affairs, examining the Biden-Harris Administration’s comprehensive strategy to combat ransomware attacks.
Rep. Shontel Brown
Member, Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Energy Policy, and Regulatory Affairs
Joint Hearing on “Combating Ransomware Attacks”
September 27, 2023
Thank you, Chairman Fallon, and thank you to the witnesses for joining us. Our hearing today addresses an issue threatening Americans far too frequently: ransomware attacks.
Criminals, both foreign and domestic, use ransomware to target everything and everyone: private businesses, state and local governments, hospitals, school districts, and critical infrastructure. We have even seen these attacks disrupt access to primary healthcare and safety net services for our nation’s most vulnerable.
But before I go any further, we cannot sit at this hearing without addressing the terrible dangers we face with an impending Republican government shutdown. A government shutdown, much like a ransomware attack, would be dangerous, destructive, and disastrous.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the agency that leads federal cybersecurity efforts and serves as the national coordinator for critical infrastructure security and resilience, would have to furlough 80% of its employees as a result of the Republican shutdown. We are talking thousands of critical workers—people with families —and that’s just one agency!
The Department of Justice, the agency responsible for investigating and taking down criminal ransomware networks, would also be forced to furlough thousands of employees. With a shutdown, extreme Republican members would undercut organizations and state and local governments that are relying on federal funds to prevent the crippling ransomware attacks we are discussing in this very hearing.
All over the country, ransomware attacks directly affect people’s lives. Hospitals have had to turn away patients. 9-1-1 call centers have been unable to dispatch ambulances and fire trucks. Small businesses have closed down. In some instances, people have been unable to pay their water bills because a city website has been paralyzed by a hacker demanding ransom—and those late fees add up!
In my home state, ransomware thieves targeted the Ohio unemployment system in July, preventing thousands of Ohioans from receiving benefits. And in March, the Lakeland Community College in Ohio—just next door to my district—was the victim of a cyberattack that compromised the personal data of nearly 3,000 individuals.
The Biden-Harris Administration has made defending against these kinds of attacks a top priority. Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, the Administration is currently providing $1 billion in cybersecurity grants to state, local, and territory governments to build the cyber capabilities they need. But on Sunday at 12:01 a.m., these dollars are at risk of not making it out at all. It is just one more reason the MAGA shutdown is harmful to everyday people, our national security, and our standing in the world.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.