WASHINGTON –– The Obama administration should retaliate for a cyberattack on federal employee records that U.S. officials have linked to the Chinese government, members of the House Intelligence Committee said Sunday.
“There has to be a price to pay for this,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who is on both the intelligence and Homeland Security committees, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
While the timing and method of retaliation should be determined by the administration and kept secret, “these countries or these terrorist groups should know there will be consequences when they act this way,” King said.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the intelligence panel, said the administration must determine “when we’re going to go on offense.”
Neither lawmaker confirmed that the Chinese government was behind the breach at the Office of Personnel Management, which serves as the government’s human resources department. Hackers stole data on as many as 4 million current and former federal employees before the attack was discovered in April, the government said on Thursday.
“We’ve gotten very good at attribution,” or figuring out the source of cyber attacks, Schiff said.
King called China “certainly a likely suspect.”
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, Zhu Haiquan, said in an email Friday: “Jumping to conclusions and making hypothetical accusations is not responsible and counterproductive.”
Schiff and King called for stepped-up actions to better protect U.S. computer systems. “More has to be done,” King said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican presidential candidate, said Congress should increase funding for cybersecurity.
“People in the intelligence committee are more worried about this than anything else,” Graham said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” A cyberattack could disrupt U.S. financial systems, he said.
The government should encourage companies to enhance their defenses, Graham said.
“Incentivize the private sector to harden their infrastructure against the cyber-attack,” he said. “Give them liability protections if they do.”