By Doug Kelly
The FBI recently announced its removal of Russian malware from thousands of computer networks across the globe. While this short-term threat was addressed, some in Congress continue to push an anti-tech agenda that would undermine companies making the largest investments in cybersecurity protections – leaving the United States and our allies more vulnerable.
This latest cyberattack, nicknamed Sandworm, involved a unit of Russian military and intelligence officers installing malicious software (or “malware”) on a wide range of devices. This malware was then used to create and control a “botnet” – a network of compromised network devices. Many of the infected devices were small office or home networks that connect multiple computers to the wider internet, meaning each infected device risked exposing a larger number of computers to Sandworm’s malicious activities.
The FBI identified hundreds of victim bots in the United States and thousands worldwide. It then secretly removed the malware from the devices and blocked Sandstorm’s remote access capabilities.
Russia already launched cyberattacks targeting Ukraine’s military and government, as well as a European satellite system called ViaSat. U.S. officials issued heightened warnings that Russia may use cyberattacks to strike and cripple American critical infrastructure — including pipelines, financial firms, and the electric grid — in response to the painful Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine. The warning is not an idle one: the Department of Justice recently indicted three Russian spies who spent five years targeting energy infrastructure in 135 countries to let the Russian government gain remote control of power plants.
In fact, authoritarian governments pose an ongoing threat to our cybersecurity, according to the government’s latest Annual Threat Assessment (ATA). The ATA indicated that both China and Russia were top threats to the U.S., especially through cyberattacks against our critical infrastructure, our private sector companies, and our military secrets. In fact, FBI Director Christopher Wray recently said that China is cyberattacking the U.S. more than all other countries – with over 2,000 attacks being investigated. This includes those from Iran and North Korea, two major threats for sophisticated espionage and cybercrimes.
America’s most innovative technology companies are fighting back to protect us from cyberattacks by pledging to spend more than $30 billion over five years to develop advanced cybersecurity tools, train more than 250,000 cybersecurity experts, and harden tech supply chains to prevent malicious backdoor attacks.
Unfortunately, some in Congress are pushing anti-innovation bills that would not only handcuff America’s leading technology companies, but also undermine their efforts to advance cybersecurity protections. The impacts of these proposed bills include breaking up our biggest innovators, restricting the types of products they can develop, dictating how they can compete, preventing them from acquiring cutting-edge technologies, and requiring them to share data with Chinese competitors. One study estimated the immediate cost of these bills would be approximately $300 billion, siphoning enormous amounts of capital away from future innovation, including investments in cybersecurity.
Technology isn’t just another sector – it’s the backbone of our national security, our economic prosperity, and our fundamental freedoms. Congress must commit to protecting and enhancing U.S. innovation.