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Senator Hassan Discusses Cyberattack with Strafford County Officials


To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning during the HSGAC hearing, click here.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, Senator Maggie Hassan was briefed this week by officials in Strafford County, New Hampshire, including County Administrator Ray Bower and Sheriff David Dubois, on the recent cyberattack that hit the county government. At the meeting, the Senator also discussed her efforts to bolster cybersecurity across all levels of government, and solicited input from the officials on how the federal government can support their efforts to strengthen cybersecurity and resiliency.

Yesterday, during a Senate Homeland Security hearing, Senator Hassan cited Strafford County government’s response to the cyberattack as an example of the importance of implementing resiliency plans across all levels of government.

In questioning Census Bureau Director Dr. Steven Dillingham said, “Just a few weeks ago, the Strafford County government experienced a cyberattack that took their systems offline. However, the Strafford County government had prepared for a cyberattack scenario ahead of time, and were able to implement a continuity of operations plan – in this case by reverting to pen and paper – allowing the government to continue its essential functions. While this New Hampshire county level government operates on a different scale – to be sure – than the 2020 Census, this event highlights an important lesson on resiliency at all levels of government.”

When asked by Senator Hassan whether the 2020 Census also has a continuity of operations plan in the event of a cyberattack, Mr. Dillingham said, “We do have a continuity of operations plan. The cyberattacks – primarily – our planning is to mitigate any damage. So we have built in safeguards that the systems – parts of our system – can immediately be closed down and any issues that we experience can be contained.

Mr. Dillingham continued, “We do have a continuity of operations scenario, but I would like to examine more carefully the catastrophic scenario that you might be alluding to.”

See below for coverage highlights from Senator Hassan’s discussion in Strafford County:

NHPR: Hassan Talks Cybersecurity After Strafford County Virus Attack

By Sara Willa Ernst

Senator Maggie Hassan visited Strafford County on Monday to learn how officials there dealt with a June cyberattack. Hassan, a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, says she's looking for ways federal legislation can help local governments deal with cybercrime.

Echoing the input she heard from local officials, Hassan said there needs to be a structure in place to help large and small organizations collaborate in combating cybercrime.

“We need to invest in resources that allow there to be information-sharing between and among the private sector, federal government, state, local and county government,” said Hassan.

Hassan also informed local officials of the support available from the federal government.

“Constituencies here in New Hampshire, especially law enforcement and public safety, [need to] know what resources they have through the secret services and our multi-state information and analysis centers.”

George Maglaras, the chairman of the Strafford County Board of Commissioners, suggested the federal government can do its part by passing harsher penalties for these crimes.

“So I also believe that the federal government needs to take a stronger approach, a more aggressive approach, said Maglaras. “As far as I’m concerned, it needs to be criminalized. And that’s going to take an act of Congress in a bipartisan effort to make sure that to occur.” […]

Seacoast Online: Hassan updated on Strafford County computer virus investigation

By Brian Early

Strafford County technology officials believe the virus that infected the county’s computer system originated from outside the country.

[…] These details emerged during a briefing with Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., who met with the Strafford County commissioners Monday. The roundtable included Dubois and Secret Service Resident Agent in Charge Timothy Benitez. Hassan, who resides in Newfields, is a member Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. She met with the Strafford County Commissioners and other county officials at the county complex on County Farm Road in Dover Monday morning.

Kopreski told Hassan the attack began early Friday morning on June 28, and the IT staff was alerted by county dispatchers who reported there were issues with the server. Then they noticed files were being encrypted, which was spreading. At that point, IT officials moved to take the county’s network as soon as possible to save what they could, he told the senator. He said they have restored about 90 percent of the computers on the network.

County Administrator Ray Bower said the county could act swiftly when the virus became apparent because it already had a plan in place that they had practiced. “It enabled the county to continue operations without the computer system,” Bower said.

Hassan said she had a keen interest in cybersecurity, and after finding out what occurred, she wanted to know what further efforts the federal government could to assist in defending against for future attacks.

Dubois thanked Hassan for advocating for federal funds to be diverted to local police departments for training in cyber crimes, which he said was helpful in this investigation. “We’ve collected forensic evidence that we think will be useful in the investigation,” Dubois said.

[…] Strafford County Commissioner Chair George Maglaras said the federal government needs to ensure there are resources available to help local governments combat cyber issues. “This thing is not going to go away. It’s going to continue,” he said. “I don’t view this as any different than someone breaking into my home or your home. I believe the federal government needs to assist us with those resources where ever possible. Without that, we will continue to struggle.”

Hassan agreed. “Cybercrime is crime. Cyber attacks are attacks,” she said. “It is the same as any kind of other attacks by a foreign agency, and we have to treat it that way.”

Union Leader: Officials: Ransomware used in Strafford County cyber attack was likely sent from overseas

By Kimberly Haas

Strafford County officials and an agent with the U.S. Secret Service spoke Monday morning about a cyber attack on computer systems at the Strafford County complex.

[…] Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, was briefed during Monday’s meeting. She is a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and said cyber security has been a major focus of hers.

“Cyber crime is crime. Cyber attacks are attacks,” Hassan said. “It’s the same as any kind of foreign attack by any other agency.