March 13, 2019

Wyden, Cotton Urge Senate: Take Cyber Threats Seriously

Bipartisan Senators Request Annual Report on Threats to Senate Computers and Electronic Devices

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., today urged the Senate to take the cyber threats to congressional computers and cell phones seriously by providing an annual report on the number of successful hacks of Senate devices.

In a letter addressed to the Senate Sargent of Arms (SAA), Michael Stenger, the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee members wrote:

“During the last decade, hackers have successfully infiltrated U.S. government agencies including the Office of Personnel Management, health care firms such as Anthem, and technology giants like Google. Hackers continue to target all manner of government entities, and there is little doubt that Congress is squarely in their sights. Indeed, as your predecessor testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations in June 2017, ‘the Senate is considered a prime target for cybersecurity breaches.’ The Sergeant at Arms must be transparent in providing members of the Senate all information about the possible existence and scale of successful hacks against the Senate.”

In the letter, Wyden and Cotton requested that SAA provide annual reports to each senator revealing aggregate data on when Senate computers and smartphones have been compromised and when hackers have otherwise gained access to sensitive Senate data. The senators also pressed SAA to notify Senate leadership and all members of the Senate Committees on Rules and Intelligence of any breaches on Senate computers within 5 days of discovery.

Wyden sent a letter in September 2018 to Senate leadership regarding concerns around the SAA’s lack of authority to defend the Senate against cyber-attacks. In December 2018, after a letter from Wyden, the Federal Election Commission also greenlit the use of leftover campaign funds to secure the personal devices of members of Congress.

The full version of today’s letter to SAA is available here.