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Senator: U.S. Needs More Cyber Plans, Money to Handle Russia

Given that Washington, D.C., and Russia are at odds over Ukraine, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters said there's an urgent need for more federal cybersecurity programs and funding to prepare for any Russia-linked cyber attacks.

Russian hacker breaking into server
Shutterstock/Dmytro Tyshchenko
(TNS) — U.S. Sen. Gary Peters again emphasized the need for a continued federal cybersecurity response Tuesday during a visit to a Grand Rapids career training facility.

Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in Washington. In recent months, Peters and other lawmakers have introduced a slate of bills focused on cybersecurity initiatives, from bolstering the ability of local governments to respond to cyber attacks to offering more protection to commercial satellites in the U.S., among other causes.

"Probably one of the most, if not the most, significant threats to the homeland now are cyber," Peters said. "Cyber attacks are constant, whether you're in healthcare, finance, whatever business you're in right now, including small business."

A Department of Homeland Security bulletin issued Monday warned that Russia could launch a cyber attack against U.S. targets on American soil if it believes Washington's response to its potential invasion of Ukraine threatens its long-term national security. Russia has amassed an estimated 100,000 troops along the border of the former Soviet state.

Peters said the U.S. needs to have systems in place to respond to potential cyber attack threats from Russia. In its memo, DHS said Russian government cyber actors have spent years targeting and gaining access to critical infrastructure in the United States.

"As that conflict continues to evolve, it could be that there are additional cyber threats that we're going to face here in the homeland, and we need to be prepared."

The senator's remarks were following a tour of the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology near downtown Grand Rapids. WMCAT administers career development programs in a variety of fields, including cybersecurity. Peters said there is still a great need for human infrastructure to respond to cybersecurity issues at the federal level.

"We need to have the tools, we need to have the legislation, we need to have public-private partnerships, but bottom line — we need the people, like who are training right here to be able to bring that expertise to these challenges," he said. "And unfortunately, the challenges aren't going to go away, they are only going to get more sophisticated."

Nearly $2 billion was designated in the recently signed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill for cybersecurity initiatives. Peters said he's hopeful additional funding is included in future bills, whether it's the annual defense spending bill or the federal government's annual budget.

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