Mayorkas Questioned Over Recent Russian Cyber Attacks on US Water Systems

Two bipartisan lawmakers from Texas and Arizona are demanding answers from the Department of Homeland Security after a cyber-attack on a water system in Muleshoe, Texas this past January turned catastrophic. Representatives Ruben Gallego of Arizona and Pat Fallon of Texas sent a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas calling for a press briefing and answers regarding the cyber-attack in Muleshoe, as well as what steps will be taken in the future to prevent other cyber-attacks.

The cyber-attack in Muleshoe, TX caused the small town’s water systems to completely overflow, and in two hours, sent over ten thousand gallons of water pouring out of the city’s main water tower. The cyber attack not only happened in Muleshoe but also two other rural towns located nearby in the Texas panhandle region, one being in Hale Center, which has a much larger population than Muleshoe. Mike Cypert, the city manager for Hale Center, said that there were about 37,000 attempts within four days to hack into the city’s firewall. Fortunately for Hale Center TX, the attack failed as the city was able to disconnect the system manually in time.

In their letter to DHS Secretary Mayorkas, Reps. Gallego and Fallon claimed that U.S. cybersecurity firm Mandiant attributed the attack to Sandworm, a cyber warfare unit suspected to be linked to Russia’s spy agency, the GRU. Sandworm is not a new enemy, as they launched previous attacks on the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea as well as one on Ukraine’s electrical grid. The two representatives stressed a great concern that if more cyber attacks happen to water systems in America, they could have devastating effects.

In March 2024 the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan and assistant to the president of National Security Affairs Jake Sullivan showed their support for the issue by sending letters to the nation’s governors calling for them to take action by planning for future attacks.