Lawmakers unnerved by reports of new cyber breaches

Friday, February 12, 2016
By Paul Martin

By Katie Bo Williams

Lawmakers in both parties say breaches reported this week at the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service are the latest indication of the government’s weak defenses against cyber criminals.

While the administration has sought to downplay both incidents, some lawmakers are hitting the White House, arguing the intrusions offer further evidence that the government can’t be trusted to protect its highly sensitive networks.

“[President Obama] has neglected to take tangible steps to address these persistent cyberinfrastructure challenges,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said in a Wednesday statement that accused the administration of trying to sweep the IRS breach “under the rug.”

Opinion is hardly unanimous. Unlike last spring’s hack of the Office of Personnel Management, which provoked widespread criticism, some aren’t sure what to make of the latest incidents.

They say that the two breaches are unique cases that don’t necessarily point to a systemic failure on the part of the government.

“Not that these aren’t bad things that happened, I’m certainly concerned any time there’s information that’s compromised, but in these two situations, it doesn’t appear to fit in the rubric of what we generally think of as a cyberattack,” Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) told The Hill.

Spokespersons from both the Department of Homeland Security and the DOJ provided almost identical statements to reporters that emphasized there was “no indication” of any “breach of sensitive or personally identifiable information.”

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