Senator sounds alarm on cyber threats to internet connectivity during coronavirus crisis

Senator sounds alarm on cyber threats to internet connectivity during coronavirus crisis
© Greg Nash

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDemocrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog Trump fires intelligence community watchdog who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint Hillicon Valley: Thousands of Zoom recordings exposed online | Google shares location data to counter virus | Dem senator pushes jobless benefits for gig workers | Twitter takes down 20,000 fake accounts MORE (D-Va.) on Wednesday expressed serious concerns about cyber threats to internet connectivity for Americans working from home during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

Warner, who serves as the vice chairman on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote letters to network device vendors including Google asking that they shore up the security of their products and bolster defenses against potential attacks. 

“As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, Americans will depend on connectivity products to receive tele-health; remain connected with family, colleagues, employers, and friends; and to receive news reports, and guidance from government and public health officials,” Warner wrote. 

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He emphasized that “during this time, the security of consumer devices and networks will be of heightened importance. It is also imperative that consumer Internet infrastructure not be used as attack vectors to consumer systems and workplace networks accessed from home.”

The letters were also sent to businesses including Netgear, Belkin, Eero, Asus and Commscope. Warner asked that the vendors examine the security of routers, modems, wireless access points and other internet connectivity products to lower the chances of hackers wreaking havoc on Americans working remotely. 

The senator also asked that the groups educate their customers on cyber hygiene and best practices to prevent cyberattacks on their devices, and that the companies tell their customers when products are not up-to-date on security. 

Warner’s letters were sent on the heels of repeated warnings by experts that Americans working from home are increasingly vulnerable to hackers looking to take advantage of the situation caused by the pandemic. 

Email phishing attacks have increased, with hackers using coronavirus-themed emails to tempt individuals to click on malicious emails, and agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization have suffered recent cyberattacks

Warner introduced legislation last year to establish baseline cybersecurity standards for government-purchased devices. The legislation awaits a vote in the Senate.