RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A month after the ransomware attack hit Virginia’s Division of Legislative Automated Systems (DLAS), Sen. Mark Warner said he still doesn’t know who carried out the attack at a briefing on Friday.
Warner indicated the attack was less about money and more about causing chaos in the Virginia legislative system just weeks from the General Assembly session starting.
“There was not a definitive amount laid out,” he told 8News.
When asked who is believed to be behind this, Warner said that’s still being investigated. However he indicated that foreign governments may have interest in disrupting a state government’s operations.
“This is pure speculation, but that’s the kind of activity that you could see the Russian services or Chinese services be involved in,” Warner said.
The senator also shared more about the timeline, revealing that the same attackers first broke into the system all the way back in March of 2021. He said their presence was discovered in June but wasn’t completely wiped out.
Then, in October, “the bad guys, the hackers, started further penetrating the system,” Warner said.
The full fledged attack came in December, when the DLAS, the Division of Capitol Police and DLAS’ internal servers were impacted, including the system lawmakers use to draft and modify bills. Websites for several agencies were also down when the ransomware attack hit.
Despite a few early bill filing issues for state lawmakers, aides have told 8News the attack hasn’t disrupted the day-to-day work ahead of the 2022 session, which began on January 12.
Warner said Virginians should care about attacks like this because they are on the rise– and can really hurt.
“State level, local government level, federal government level, private sector level, are not spending or putting enough focus on cyber defense,” he said.
Warner said the ability for governments, school systems and businesses to function is at risk when this happens.
“We’re seeing literally thousands of ransoms getting paid and many of those ransoms are continuing to get paid without any public knowledge,” Warner added.
Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin said cybersecurity is something he will invest in.
Warner also wants to grant immunity and confidentiality to people who report attacks. He hopes to make that a law within the next two months.