U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) and Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.), co-chairs of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC), are urging the Biden administration to better protect the public health sector (HPH) from cyberthreats. 

In a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Becerra, King and Gallagher highlight the rapidly increasing number of cyberattacks targeting healthcare, call for stronger collaborative action to address the growing threat, and request an urgent briefing from the administration on their current posture.

“The COVID-19 pandemic revealed systemic challenges facing the healthcare and public health (HPH) sector… For those of us working on issues of national cyber resilience, COVID-19 was accompanied by another epidemic – that of ransomware,” says CSC Co-Chairs Senator King and Congressman Gallagher. “Ransomware attacks on the HPH sector have skyrocketed in the past two years as opportunistic criminals recognized that hospitals may pay quickly to resolve issues and protect patient safety.”

“Against this backdrop, we were heartened to see the White House host an executive forum on healthcare cybersecurity and the recognition by your Department and the other participants of the importance of improving the cybersecurity of this vital critical infrastructure sector,” continued the CSC co-chairs. “We remain concerned, however, about the lack of robust and timely sharing of actionable threat information with industry partners and the need to dramatically scale up the Department’s capabilities and resources. With cyber threats growing exponentially, we must prioritize addressing the HPH sector’s cybersecurity gaps.”

The CSC co-chairs concluded: “We recognize the important partnership between the executive and legislative branches to properly organize and resource public-private collaboration to protect against cyber threats. Thus, we are requesting a briefing from your office on the status of efforts to strengthen the department’s capabilities as the Sector Risk Management Agency and to operationalize collaboration with the organizations throughout the sector.”

The CSC co-chairs request the administration urgently brief them on several key healthcare cyberposture details, including:  

  • The current organizational structure and roles and responsibilities that HHS employs to support HPH cybersecurity;
  • The current authorities HHS has to improve cybersecurity of the HPH sector as well as the gaps in those authorities;
  • The resources – including personnel and budget – that HHS requires to serve as an effective sector risk management agency;
  • The interagency coordination structures, successes, and challenges utilized to support HHS’s efforts and HPH cybersecurity efforts.

As co-chairs of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC), King and Gallagher are recognized as two of Congress’ leading experts on cyberdefense and are strong advocates for a forward-thinking cyberstrategy that emphasizes layered cyberdeterrence.

Since it officially launched in April 2019dozens of CSC recommendations have been enacted into law, including the creation of a National Cyber Director.