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Infrastructure Talks Continue; U.S. Adds 560,000 Jobs in May; Cyber Threats. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 4, 2021 - 15:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Brand-new hour. I'm Victor Blackwell.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And I'm Alisyn Camerota.

The country's top law enforcement agent putting the country on alert with a stunning warning that America has entered a new front in the war on terrorism.

BLACKWELL: FBI Director Christopher Wray says the challenge in confronting cyberattacks is similar to the challenges the U.S. faced after the September 11 attacks.

His warning warnings are after a series of crippling cyberattacks in the U.S. that included a shutdown of the nation's largest gas pipeline and an attack on the world's largest meat processor.

With us now ,CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider.

Jessica, first, the comparison to 9/11, why is he picking that?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he's saying that the FBI now has to tackle this threat, much like they tackled terrorism after 9/11.

Guys, the American public really is beginning to see the scope of these attacks firsthand. And cybersecurity experts are warning that the attacks at some point could pose a real danger here and seriously cripple this country.

And that is exactly why the FBI director, Christopher Wray, is getting this message out that these cyberattacks are an urgent national security threat. Now, his comments come up after the White House pleaded with business leaders to protect their systems from what are becoming more common cyber attacks.

And Wray's comments, they're also coming at this time when these hacks are increasingly impacting and even thwarting everyday American life and commerce.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The Biden administration sounding the alarm about the growing threat of cyber attacks that in recent weeks have resulted in gas shortages and a shutdown of meat production plants.

FBI Director Christopher Wray comparing the effort needed to combat this rapid succession of ransomware hacks to how the FBI approached the response to terrorism after 9/11.

"There are a lot of parallels, there's a lot of importance and a lot of focus by us on disruption and prevention," Wray said. Director Wray told "The Wall Street Journal" the FBI is investigating about 100 different types of ransomware, many that trace back to hackers in Russia.

One study shows the U.S. was hit by more than 15,000 ransomware attacks last year alone, costing businesses and organizations between at least half-a-billion and $2.3 billion in 2020. Ransomware locks up computer files, and hackers demand payment to release it back to the victim.

JOHN CARLIN, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: A study of cryptocurrency payments using some of the techniques that were just described to show a 300 percent increase in ransom payments over the prior year.

SCHNEIDER: Ransomware attacks have impacted everything from the gas pipeline operated by Colonial that led to gas shortages all along the East Coast to individual health care networks whose computer systems have been shut down sporadically across the country and the world.

JOHN HULTQUIST, MANDIANT THREAT INTELLIGENCE: Before long, we are worried that some people will get hurt, especially when we consider all these incidents that are affecting health care. Ireland's health care system went down.

SCHNEIDER: The Department of Justice signaling this week it plans to coordinate its ransomware investigations in the same way it treats terrorism cases, mandating federal prosecutors around the country to report all investigations they're working on in a move designed to better coordinate the government's tracking of online criminals.

Former FBI cyber official Shawn Henry says it's going to take an international effort.

SHAWN HENRY, PRESIDENT, CROWDSTRIKE: They have got to work collaboratively with foreign law enforcement agencies to take these people off the field.

SCHNEIDER: The massive threat from cyberattacks had been looming for years. Former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned about the threat three years ago.

DAN COATS, FORMER U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.

SCHNEIDER: The White House this week sent business leaders nationwide a letter appealing for immediate action, saying: "We urge you to take ransomware crime seriously and ensure your corporate cyber-defenses match the threat."


SCHNEIDER: And the FBI director also called out -- called out Russia in this interview, saying that they knowingly harbor cyberattackers.

Today, President Vladimir Putin responded, fighting back, calling it nonsense that Russia was ever involved in any cyberattacks, specifically on the JBS meatpacking plants.


And, Alisyn and Victor, President Joe Biden will get his chance to confront President Putin at a summit in Switzerland later this month. The White House is saying that President Biden will address that JBS attack with President Putin, as well as these increased cyberattacks that we know have been emanating from Russia -- guys.

CAMEROTA: It'll be interesting to hear what comes out of that.

Jessica Schneider, thank you for your reporting.

Let's discuss this with Anthony Ferrante. He's a CNN law enforcement analyst and the global head of cybersecurity at FTI Consulting. And Lily Hay Newman, she's a senior writer at "Wired." She has reported extensively on information security, digital privacy, and hacking.

Great to have both of you.

Lily, I want to start with you, because the general public doesn't see these attacks in the same vein as 9/11, that we saw the horror of 9/11, 3,000 Americans dead. And, at times, this is just seen as sort of a nuisance. But I know, because you have spoken to people and you're steeped in this, is this an apt comparison?

LILY HAY NEWMAN, "WIRED": I think it is in the sense that this has really been mounting for years and years and has a huge impact on all sorts of critical systems.

We're talking about the pipeline, and that has an effect on people's daily lives, in terms of ability to get fuel, prices at the pump. But, also, these attacks are known for hitting hospitals, health care systems, and that has a really direct impact on patients, on health care providers.

And certainly, in the context of the pandemic, we can clearly see how that is sort of a catastrophic situation. But I think just the fact that it's been mounting over time, there is a huge and dire impact.

BLACKWELL: Anthony, we're hearing these comparisons to 9/11, blinking light analogies. You say that this is not new, and that the FBI is just late to the game. So are we hearing this type of language because the government is now aware of the threat that has always been there, or is the threat really increasing?

ANTHONY FERRANTE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Victor, you ask a good question.

And I think a lot of people have talked about -- earlier about how the threat is emanating from Russia. Ransomware is not new. Ransomware, believe it or not, has been around for 30 years, right? But what we're seeing is an increased scope and scale of these attacks.

And I believe, because of COVID, our adversaries have noticed the softer targets, and have targeted them because they know they're weaker, and they're willing to pay, right?

But let's remember, as we discussed earlier, this threat is emanating from Russia. We need to be clear here. These American businesses are being attacked by a nation state. How do we expect, for example, the Massachusetts ferry organization to thwart an attack from Russian state actors, OK?

It's a serious threat. It's good to see the FBI taking notice and noticing this as a turning point in their efforts. But there's a lot more that can be done here.

CAMEROTA: Lily, I know this is complicated. And I know that none of us are policy-makers. But does it help when these companies pay the ransom? Should Congress pass a law to stop them from being able to pay the ransom to these ransomware attacks?

Because paying the ransom doesn't seem to be stopping them.

HAY NEWMAN: Right. It is a very complicated question. On the one hand, if everyone stopped paying, this would stop, because the incentive for criminal actors to do this, the money that they're making, would disappear, it wouldn't be there anymore.

On the other hand, the fact that this is critical systems, that there's business decisions that are part of this, even when we're talking about health care, potential loss of human life, really high- stakes decisions, it's pretty difficult to just draw the line and say no payment.

But I really agree with what Anthony was saying that, if there's more resources, more ability for organizations to know how to defend themselves on the front end, and then what to do if they do get attacked, you can kind of start to chip away and reduce the amount of payments or sort of move it on to more government involvement or more accountability about the payments and not just sort of open season.

BLACKWELL: Anthony, I spoke with Congressman Jim Langevin last hour. He's the chair of the House Cybersecurity Caucus. And he called for public private-partnerships, this hand-in-hand shared responsibility.

You say that that is insulting. Why?

FERRANTE: Well, I just think it's a common cliche that has been said from the U.S. government for years now. OK.

The reality is private industry is doing their part. They are. I work with private organizations every single day, and they invest millions of dollars in their cyber-defenses. OK, again, how do you expect a private organization to defend themselves from a nation state?

What I believe is necessary is for the U.S. government to step up a whole-of-government approach to thwart this -- these attacks, OK?


The fact that Congress is proposing legislation to ban payments of ransomware is just -- it's crazy to me, and it just shows that they are out of touch with reality. Have they spoken to a U.S. business lately?

In some cases, businesses don't have a choice. What the government should be doing is following those payments, tracing that money on the blockchain and capturing it, freezing it, affecting the financial kill chain to prevent that money from ending up in the hands of the actors.

That's what the government should be doing. And the government should stop pointing fingers at private organizations and say, we're going to do our part. We know you have been working hard. We know this is costing you millions of dollars a year. Just last year alone, $18 billion was lost by public entities. That is state and local government organizations, right?


FERRANTE: That doesn't even account for private organizations. So it's time for the government to step up and do their part.

BLACKWELL: Anthony Ferrante, Lily Hay Newman, thank you both.

New jobs report is out today, and the U.S. added close to 560,000 jobs last month, double what was added in April, but still lower than what some economists predicted.

CAMEROTA: Employers across the country still say they're having trouble finding workers.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich has been speaking with some of them on the Jersey Shore, my hometown, Asbury Park.

What are they telling you?



Well, 77 percent of Americans say they're planning to travel this summer, compared to 29 percent last year. And that is welcome news for summer destinations like Asbury Park right here on the Jersey Shore, which makes most of its money in these summer months.

And it's particularly important for small businesses that line this boardwalk that were closed for much of last year. They say that they're excited to welcome record crowds, but they're nervous because they can't find enough workers to meet this incoming demand.


YURKEVICH: Why do you think you're having such a tough time finding people to work?

MARILYN SCHLOSSBACH, RESTAURANT GROUP OWNER: Unemployment. The stimulus is killing us.

TRAVIS SEMBLEWSKI, VIC'S ITALIAN RESTAURANT: I just can't get people to come in and just start a new job.

YURKEVICH: Why can't you pay more? Why can't you offer more incentives?

SEMBLEWSKI: Well, if we were to go above and beyond, when this all goes away, when the crisis is over, the floor is going to fall out and inflation is going to kick in. The customers will have to absorb the costs. And we don't want to do that.


YURKEVICH: And it's not just the restaurant industry, hotels, the trucking industry all suffering to find workers. Small businesses are wondering when this will end. They think it's actually going to be in the fall. That's when both kids head back to school. So that will resolve some of the childcare issues.

And that's also when the extra $300 in enhanced federal unemployment benefits ends. Small businesses say those are the two biggest hurdles to getting people back to work, despite increasing wages and offering more incentives -- Victor, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Really interesting to hear from them. It's usually packed. They're going to need a lot of waitstaff there for the summer.

Vanessa, thank you very much.

OK, still ahead, we get the pulse of the people. Four vaccine-hesitant people are going to explain to us why they don't want to get vaccinated.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just don't have enough data. Right now, we're all still guinea pigs.


BLACKWELL: And Donald Trump hits the road again this weekend for his first public speech in months.



CAMEROTA: President Biden says the economy is on the right track and that passing a trillion-dollar infrastructure package is critical to keeping it there.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now's the time to build on the foundation we have laid, because, while our progress is undeniable, it is not assured.

That's why I proposed the American Jobs Plan and the American Family Plan for generational investments. We need today -- we need to make those investments today to be able to continue to succeed tomorrow.


BLACKWELL: And negotiations on that infrastructure plan are continuing today.

The president is set to speak with the lead Republican negotiator, Senator Shelley Moore Capito, this afternoon.

Chief political analyst Gloria Borger and senior political correspondent Abby Phillip are with us.


Gloria, let me start with you. They're still hundreds of billions of dollars apart on this plan. Is all of this now just to turn to Joe Manchin and say, we tried?



Look, I think, in his heart of hearts, Joe Biden would like to say: I reached out to Republicans. I gave them as much as I could. In the end, we couldn't agree on what should be in this package, nor could we agree on how to pay for it, because I want to raise taxes on corporations, or at least have corporations have a minimum tax. And Republicans didn't want to do that.

He'd like a deal. And maybe they will do a smaller deal, and then have something larger through -- without this process where you only need 50 votes to get something passed. It's his nature to try and to reach out.


Am I optimistic? I'd have to say I'm not. CAMEROTA: Abby, back to Joe Manchin for a second. Why is he such a

fan of the filibuster? Why is that one so sacrosanct? I mean, why is that -- why is it -- it's not in the Constitution. Why is that more important than getting voting rights, a national law, than the infrastructure, et cetera?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of people are asking those questions.

I mean, the answer goes back to who Joe Manchin is as a senator. He was mentored by the former Senator Byrd, who was a big proponent of the filibuster. And he talks about it all the time and says that, the reason I view the Senate the way that it is, the reason I want the Senate to go back to the way that he believes that it used to function, a more collegial body, a place where people could work on -- with the other side of the aisle, is because I think that the way that the Senate is working right now doesn't work for the American people.

That's Joe Manchin's view.

I do wonder, though, two things about where he's going. Does he want to just see that there has been a bipartisan effort? And then the other part of it is, what kind of bill does Joe Manchin actually want to vote for? Does he actually want this smaller version of this bill that the Biden administration has come down to?

And it may very well be the case that he also just wants that legislation to be less big, less bulky, and maybe even less liberal, because he's going back to a very conservative state in West Virginia.

BLACKWELL: All right, let's see if something comes out of this latest round of talks.

BORGER: Stay tuned.

BLACKWELL: Gloria, let's go to that the former vice president, Mike Pence, and his comments on January 6 and the former president. Watch.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office. And I don't know if we will ever see eye to eye on that day. But I will always be proud of what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years.



BLACKWELL: So many things.

BORGER: So much.

BLACKWELL: I wish I knew what quantifies many. Like, how many is many of these conversations with the former president? But there's also this thing where he says, we will never see eye to eye. This isn't like a sports team. And I don't know who that helps him with. It doesn't give him points on the board with the former president. Doesn't help with the base. Doesn't help with never-Trumper Republicans.

What is this -- how does this help him at all?

BORGER: Well, what he's trying to do is navigate this and walk this very fine line without taking on Donald Trump frontally.

We're never going to see eye to eye. That is the most bold I have ever heard Mike Pence about Donald Trump, because, remember, he used to talk about how we all stand on Donald Trump's broad shoulders and all the rest of it.

We're never going to see eye to eye means that I'm not backing down, that I did the right thing in certifying the election. And that means, as you point out, that he's going to lose all of those people in Donald Trump's base who say that the election is stolen.

What he is also -- but what he is trying to do is appeal to those Republicans and those independent voters who say the election was not stolen, those moderates, independents, who you need to win a presidential election, not necessarily a nomination, and say to them, I'm not one of those people. I believe that I did the right thing and that Joe Biden should have been certified as president.

It's really difficult. I do not believe that Mike Pence has a bright future, probably, as a presidential contender right now, because he is not bowing to Donald Trump on that important issue of the big lie.

CAMEROTA: Abby, maybe it's just his conscience. Maybe he just can't go along with all the lies that former President Trump continues to spew.

PHILLIP: If that were the case, then he should probably have been a lot more clear and denounced more forcefully what's -- what Trump has been saying and is currently saying.

I'm sure Mike Pence knows that Trump is going around asking people whether he will be reinstated in the fall. And if it's his conscience, he should say so.

But I think Victor is totally right. It is hard to see how Mike Pence maintains the ability to, let's say, run for president in 2024 in a Trump GOP party. And if he can't do that, then why not just speak his conscience? Why not be more forceful and more clear about what happened on January 6 and what the truth of the matter is?


I think he's doing neither right now. He's in this gray area. And I'm not sure that it's serving anyone. And it certainly doesn't seem to be serving his own political future.

BORGER: You know, the one thing he can't do is change his mind on this issue of certification, because he's out there.

These are people who were running through the Capitol wanting to kill him.


BORGER: And so he cannot, he cannot backtrack on that. I agree with Abby.

He could have been more bold, but he does want to be president. And so that's stopping him.

BLACKWELL: All right, Gloria Borger, Abby Phillip, thank you.

Next: President Biden's July 4 goals at risk, as vaccination rates drop across the country.

And we just spoke with a group of people who are hesitant to get the shot to find out why.


CAMEROTA: Are you willing to lose your job as a result of not getting it?