What Biden Is Doing on the Other Viral Pandemic
COMMENTARY

May 28, 2021by Michael Garcia, Senior Policy Advisor, Third Way
What Biden Is Doing on the Other Viral Pandemic
FILE - In this May 12, 2021, file photo, the entrance of Colonial Pipeline Company in Charlotte, N.C. U.S. pipeline operators will be required for the first time to conduct a cybersecurity assessment under a Biden administration directive to be issued Thursday in response to the ransomware hack that disrupted gas supplies in several states this month. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

Memorial Day Weekend will be the first time millions of Americans have traveled in 14 months, signaling the possible end of the COVID-19 pandemic. But another virus, this one causing a cyber- attack on one of the nation’s largest oil and gas pipeline, nearly upended these plans. Long gas lines and high prices led to comparisons of the 1970s oil crisis. But this was not a gas crisis; it was a symptom of the new, ongoing pandemic that is occurring in cyberspace.

This cyber virus is human-made and human-disseminated and can make the United States very ill. Beyond the Colonial Pipeline hack, the past few months saw the largest cyber-espionage attack in history, the tampering of a water treatment facility that could have poisoned thousands, and the disruption of schools and hospitals through ransomware attacks.

Fortunately, unlike the 2020 pandemic under former President Donald Trump, President Joe Biden has taken this cyber virus seriously and acted quickly to better inoculate us from this threat. 

For example, last week, Biden issued an executive order roundly applauded by the cybersecurity community. His executive order strengthens the federal government’s networks and raises the security standards for software that businesses and local governments rely upon. Specifically, this executive order places security standards on software companies that sell products to the government, requires IT companies that work for the government to report when they have been breached, and launches a pilot program to make an “energy star” label that shows if a product was developed securely. Taken together, these measures improve the government’s cyber security and benefit consumers who often use the same products. Quite simply, it makes it much harder for malicious actors to hack into sensitive government or private systems through software companies.  


In addition, Biden called on the Department of Energy to launch a 100-day plan to help electric utilities secure their control systems and supply chain to prevent any disruption of services. Several federal agencies also participated in a privately led task force to develop a series of policy proposals to combat ransomware, like the one that impacted Colonial Pipeline. And, similarly, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security announced a series of initiatives to further help private and public partners with the scourge of ransomware. For DHS, this is just one of three “sprints” that the Department is undertaking to help their partners. The other two sprints will expand DHS’ workforce so it can be more responsive to its partners’ needs and mobilize resources to assist critical infrastructure partners, like water plants, secure their systems.


To show he is serious, Biden is placing money where his mouth is. Within his first few days of being confirmed, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas increased the amount of cybersecurity grants awarded to state and locals by at least $25 million. Shortly thereafter, Congress passed President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which contained nearly $2 billion to secure federal networks, replace outdated federal IT systems, and protect the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain from cyber attacks. And, realizing that $2 billion is just a drop in the bucket compared to the over $1 trillion the global economy has lost to cybercrime since 2018, the President’s American Jobs Plan contains billions of funds that could be used for cybersecurity. This includes $100 billion for securing high-speed broadband, $20 billion for supporting critical infrastructure resiliency, and $650 million for improving DHS’ cybersecurity monitoring and incident response activities, among other initiatives.   

Just as the COVID-19 virus was global, so are cyber viruses, and Biden seems willing to go after the source of this pandemic by condemning and punishing the malicious actors behind these attacks. The Treasury Department issued sweeping sanctions on Russia for their involvement in the SolarWinds attack and meddling in US elections. And shortly after the Colonial Pipeline attack, Biden issued a warning to Russia saying “they have a responsibility to deal with this” due to the criminals operating there. More important, the administration has shown a willingness to disrupt criminal infrastructure used to launch cyberattacks if other countries refuse to take action.  

To be sure, it will take time for these measures to be felt and they are not a silver bullet to this pandemic.  


We have a long way to go. But, with these actions and resources, the U.S. government can build the antibodies to withstand this pandemic, while rooting out the actors who proliferate this virus.   


Michael Garcia is a Senior Policy Advisor in the National Security Program at Third Way, Michael supports the Program’s Cyber Enforcement Initiative in strengthening U.S. law enforcement’s ability to identify, stop, and bring to justice cybercriminals. He brings to the role unique insight in developing policies and legislation at the state and federal levels. You can read his full bio here.

A+
a-

In The News

Health

Voting

Opinions

The Man From Mississippi Who Is Meeting the Moment

On Monday, June 9, Congressman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.,, Chair of the Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on... Read More

On Monday, June 9, Congressman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.,, Chair of the Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol, introduced himself to the American people in simple and stark terms that underlined not only the critical nature of this committee and... Read More

America’s Health Care Supply Chain Is on Life Support

The world is now seeing its supply chain limits put to the test with multiple struggles happening at once: China’s... Read More

The world is now seeing its supply chain limits put to the test with multiple struggles happening at once: China’s COVID-19 lockdowns, Russia’s war against Ukraine, the ongoing pandemic’s impacts on labor, and unwanted policies like ending the North American Free Trade Agreement. In my work... Read More

To Be Competitive, Businesses Must Expand DEI Efforts to Include Neurodivergence

As our economy starts to bounce back from the pandemic, employers are struggling to hire enough people to meet demand.... Read More

As our economy starts to bounce back from the pandemic, employers are struggling to hire enough people to meet demand. Meanwhile, in the United States it is estimated that 82% of people on the autism spectrum are unemployed, compared with 4.2% of the overall population. This... Read More

June 14, 2022
by Steve Pociask
Under Risk Rating 2.0, High-Income Communities Finally Pay Their Fair Share

Low-income neighborhoods face long roads to recovery as they are often disproportionately affected by natural disasters like hurricanes and flooding.... Read More

Low-income neighborhoods face long roads to recovery as they are often disproportionately affected by natural disasters like hurricanes and flooding. Yet, instead of paying an equitable amount for the coverage they need, they continue to subsidize flood insurance for affluent, coastal communities. However, implementing a new... Read More

DeFi Needs Flexible and Fair Regulation, Not Just Enforcement

The crypto markets have been on a roller coaster ride in recent months. But market downturns and media buzz are... Read More

The crypto markets have been on a roller coaster ride in recent months. But market downturns and media buzz are nothing new in the crypto space. What’s unique this time around is that the crypto market’s recent volatility coincides with policymakers’ focused attention on the space... Read More

Using Tech to Streamline Government, Starting With Housing

Imagine this scenario: You want to build a second story addition on your house. Before getting deep into planning, you... Read More

Imagine this scenario: You want to build a second story addition on your house. Before getting deep into planning, you need one simple question answered — can I build it? Thinking it will be a quick answer, you and an architect friend head to the city... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top