Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Sunday called for greater cooperation between the public and private sectors to bolster cyber defenses, saying America’s adversaries already have the ability to use cyber intrusions to cripple the power grid.
“I think there are really evil agents who are trying,” said the official. “Even at this time when we are talking, there are thousands of attacks against all aspects of the energy sector, and the private sector in general.”
THE ATTACK ON THE COLONIAL OIL PIPELINE, A TURNING POINT
Granholm noted, without citing the company by name, that Colonial Pipeline Co. was hit last month by a devastating cyberattack by a group that requested a reward in exchange for releasing its network.
Colonial temporarily closed its fuel distribution pipelines in the southern US before paying $ 4.4 million to the attackers. The official urged energy companies to refuse to pay ransoms.
“The point is, whether they are from the private sector, the public sector, whatever, they shouldn’t pay for ransomware attacks, because this only encourages the bad guys,” he stated.
Granholm even spoke in favor of a law prohibiting paying such ransoms. However, he clarified: “I don’t know if Congress or the president are seeing that.”
Asked whether US adversaries currently have the ability to cripple the US power grid, Granholm replied: “Yes, they do.”
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the US and other nations should talk to countries like Russia, believed to be where some of the ransomware attacks originated, about cooperation in security and intelligence “to stop it.”
Rice said that this “would allow us to test the picture to see how much the Russian government is involved or not” in these attacks.
Granholm was featured on CNN’s “State of the Union” and on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and Rice was on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”