Crying Wolf: Lawmakers Ignore Cyber-threats

In June of last year, U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., took to the floor of the House of Representatives to announce his office computers had been hacked via China. The veteran lawmaker also revealed that the House Information Resources and the FBI told him that other members of Congress had been similarly compromised.

Wolf did what any lawmaker would naturally do: introduce a resolution calling for greater protection of congressional computer systems. And, as usually happens in Congress, not much happened, although the Republican and Democratic caucuses held classified briefings for lawmakers on cyber-threats.

"The meetings were sparsely attended," Wolf wrote Jan. 5 to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. "I fear that members are no better informed today than they were before."

Wolf now wants Pelosi to support a new House rule requiring a secret mandatory bipartisan briefing within the first 50 days of the new 111th Congress for members on cyber-threats. Wolf wants the briefing to address "threats to House information security, threats to information security when members travel abroad, and measures being taken to secure House computer networks and electronic devices."

Daniel Scandling, Wolf's chief of staff, told the National Journal, "This is a serious issue, and we have got to have bipartisan participation. If someone physically broke into a member's office and took something, people would be up in arms. But we're turning a blind eye to information being swiped off of computers."

All of which begs the question: If lawmakers are not concerned about their own systems' security, how concerned are they about yours? Oh, I forgot, Republicans like Wolf have long contended that the private sector will take care of those threats.