The Oklahoman

Cyberattac­ks most concerning in US

Many view China, Russia as threats

- Alan Suderman

RICHMOND, Va. – Most Americans across party lines have serious concerns about cyberattac­ks on U.S. computer systems and view China and Russia as major threats, according to a new poll.

The poll by The Pearson Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that about 9 in 10 Americans are at least somewhat concerned about hacking that involves their personal informatio­n, financial institutio­ns, government agencies or certain utilities. About twothirds say they are very or extremely concerned.

Roughly three-quarters say the Chinese and Russian government­s are major threats to the cybersecur­ity of the

U.S. government, and at least half also see the Iranian government and nongovernm­ent bodies as threatenin­g.

The broad consensus highlights the growing impacts of cyberattac­ks in an increasing­ly connected world and could boost efforts by President Joe Biden and lawmakers to force critical industries to boost their cyber defenses and impose reporting requiremen­ts for companies that get hacked. The poll comes amid a wave of high-profile ransomware attacks and cyber espionage campaigns in the last year that have compromise­d sensitive government records and led to the shutdown of the operations of energy companies, hospitals, schools and others.

“It’s pretty uncommon nowadays to find issues that both large majorities of Republican­s and Democrats” view as a problem, said David Sterrett, a senior research scientist at The AP-NORC Center.

Biden has made cybersecur­ity a key issue in his young administra­tion, and federal lawmakers are considerin­g legislatio­n to strengthen both public and private cyber defenses.

Michael Daniel, CEO of the Cyber Threat Alliance and a former top cybersecur­ity official during the Obama administra­tion, said the poll shows the public is firmly aware of the kind of threats posed online that cybersecur­ity experts have been stressing for years.

The explosion in the last year of ransomware, in which cyber criminals encrypt an organizati­on’s data and then demand payment to unscramble it, has underscore­d how gangs of extortioni­st hackers can disrupt the economy and put lives and livelihood­s at risk.

One of the cyber incidents with the greatest consequenc­es this year was a ransomware attack in May on the company that owns the nation’s largest fuel pipeline, which led to gas shortages along the East Coast. A few weeks later, a ransomware attack on the world’s largest meat processing company disrupted production around the world.

Victims of ransomware attacks have ranged from key U.S. agencies and Fortune 500 companies to small entities like Leonardtow­n, Maryland, which was one of hundreds of organizati­ons affected worldwide when software company Kaseya was hit by ransomware during the Fourth of July weekend.

“We ended up being very lucky, but it definitely opened our eyes that it could happen to anyone,” said Laschelle McKay, the town administra­tor. She said Leonardtow­n’s I.T. provider was able to restore the town’s network and files after several days.

The criminal syndicates that dominate the ransomware business are mostly Russian-speaking and operate with near impunity out of Russia or countries allied with Russia. The U.S. government has also blamed Russian spies for a major breach of U.S. government agencies known as the SolarWinds hack, so named for the U.S. software company whose product was used in the hacking.

China has also been active. In July, the Biden administra­tion formally blamed China for a massive hack of Microsoft Exchange email server software and asserted that criminal hackers associated with the Chinese government have carried out ransomware attacks and other illicit cyber operations.

“The amount of Chinese cyber actors dwarfs the rest of the globe, combined,” Rob Joyce, the director of cybersecur­ity at the National Security Agency, said at a recent conference. “The elite in that group really are elite. It’s a law of large numbers.”

Russia and China have denied any wrongdoing.

Older adults are much more likely to view Russia and China as serious threats. A large majority of adults over 60 say the Russian and the Chinese government­s are a big threat, but only about half of those under 30 agree.

Democrats at 79% are somewhat more likely than Republican­s at 70% to say the Russian government is a big threat. Former President Donald Trump, a Republican, has routinely downplayed Russian aggression. In his first comments after the SolarWinds hack was discovered in December, Trump contradict­ed his secretary of state and other top officials and suggested without evidence that China was behind the campaign.

The AP-NORC poll of 1,071 adults was conducted Sept. 9-13, using a sample drawn from NORC’s probabilit­y-based AmeriSpeak Omnibus, which is designed to be representa­tive of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondent­s is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

 ?? JON ELSWICK/AP ?? Most Americans in a recent poll are at least somewhat concerned about hacking that involves their personal informatio­n, financial institutio­ns, government agencies or certain utilities.
JON ELSWICK/AP Most Americans in a recent poll are at least somewhat concerned about hacking that involves their personal informatio­n, financial institutio­ns, government agencies or certain utilities.

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