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Grassley: Biden needs to ‘be tough’ with Putin on cyberattacks

NEW HARTFORD — Cyberattacks are becoming more plentiful, disrupting Iowans’ lives, businesses and educations, and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley says he’s hopeful the federal government can intervene.

Given recent attacks by computer hackers that have shut down gasoline pipelines, meatpacking plants and even community colleges, Grassley says there’s an urgent need for action. That may start, he says, with better communication.

“There’s got to be greater cooperation between government and the private sector,” Grassley says. “There’s a reluctance in the private sector sometimes to talk about being hacked. And the government has some information that they ought to give. We ought to have a close working relationship and I think that would take some legislation.”

Grassley said he wished he could say something was in the works to address the issue in Congress, but there isn’t. Authorities indicate the cyberattacks are coming from within Russia. President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet next week with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland.

“This is supposed to be a point of discussion,” Grassley says. “If we had criminals in the United States attacking Russia, they’d expect us to do something about it and vice versa. I think it’s perfectly legitimate for the president to bring it up and be tough.”

The hackers have reportedly asked for — and received — millions of dollars in bitcoins as ransom, which Grassley says makes the complicated problem even more difficult to rectify.

“There’s no paper trail on this cryptocurrency stuff,” Grassley says, “so when a crime’s committed, you can’t track it like you can if it was just regular currency through the banking system.”

The senator suggests it may be time to impose more regulations on cryptocurrency in order to make it easier to track the transfer of electronic funds, especially in criminal cases.

The JBS meatpacking plants in Marshalltown and Ottumwa had production disrupted last week after a company-wide cyberattack, while Des Moines Area Community College has cancelled classes at all campuses for a fourth day due to a “data security incident.” DMACC officials say there’s no evidence student or faculty data has been compromised.

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