IT Lessons Learned from the Capitol Breach

The breach of the U.S. Capitol building this week was abhorrent. Participants should be held accountable. This is not how we solve our differences or push for political change in America, and I hope we never have an incident like this again in our country.

Much of the focus has been on the physical destruction and intrusion. Windows and doors were broken; artifacts were stolen or defaced; those locked inside with the terror of not knowing the goals or intentions of the intruders.

The aspect of the event receiving far less attention is the cyber threat. Hundreds of computers, servers, and networked devices were left unattended for hours with unsupervised and unverified strangers wandering the hallways. Is it possible that a computer hacker was among the mob who entered the building, not with the goal of sitting in a congressman’s office or knocking over a podium, but rather injecting a computer with spyware or a keylogger? Planting a listening device, or copying/downloading files from an unlocked terminal?

This is a valid concern. The event was planned and promoted well in advance, giving someone with bad intentions plenty of time to prepare one or more methods of cyberattack. It would have been extremely easy to blend in with the crowd. There was no pat-down or security scanner to walk through, no escorts, no guards.

The one bright spot is the fact the Capitol has every entrance, hallway and corner covered with security cameras. While I don’t know this for certain, I will bet that facial recognition technology is in place to log and identify all visitors to the building. This controversial technology will assist law enforcement efforts to track down all of the offenders, and possibly identify any surreptitious efforts to conduct cyber-espionage.

It would be completely irresponsible to ignore this threat. If a corporate office was overrun by unknown visitors with bad intentions, the CIO would absolutely begin to quarantine potentially impacted systems and begin scanning for threats.

The process is remarkably similar to COVID-19 protocols. If you might be infected, you are quarantined, and contact tracing is performed to identify anyone else you had contact with. Capitol IT and security professionals should be doing the same right now, and only allowing endpoints back onto the network when deemed safe.

The speed at which congressional lawmakers returned to the Capitol was symbolically important and laudable, but it also raises serious concerns. There is no conceivable way that computers, networks and endpoints were adequately scanned and scrubbed in the time between the hallways being cleared and the lawmakers returning to work. It would also be hard to believe that the entire building was inspected for listening devices or cameras in that time.

Nothing about this breach was positive and only time will tell what the fallout and implications of the event might be. We are still coming to grips with the so-called Sunburst hack involving SolarWinds and 18,000 of their customers. Events at the Capitol this week could be just as devastating if by chance someone in that mob had the intent and means to pull something off, because they definitely had access and time to do it.

We have the brightest minds and most innovative cybersecurity companies and organizations in the world here in the United States. The government needs to re-prioritize cybersecurity and invest more heavily in our cyber defenses. The wars of today and tomorrow will be in cyberspace and we seemed to still be focused on the physical battlefield. It is encouraging to know that President-Elect Joe Biden has plans to elevate a cybersecurity expert to his National Security Council, a position that President Trump eliminated in 2018.

We cannot undo what happened at the Capitol this week, but we must take immediate measures to limit the potential cyber damage from that event and we must improve the physical security to make future intrusions much more difficult. The loss of life and the trampling of our Constitution was enough to be filled with sorrow and sadness for where we are as a nation right now. Better days lie ahead.

About the Author

Josh Bohls is the founder of Inkscreen.


  • Progressing in Capabilities

    Progressing in Capabilities

    Hazardous areas within industries like oil and gas, manufacturing, agriculture and the like, have long-sought reliable video surveillance cameras and equipment that can operate safely in these harsh and unpredictable environments. Read Now

  • A Comprehensive Nationwide Solution

    A Comprehensive Nationwide Solution

    Across the United States, manufacturing facilities, distribution centers, truck yards, parking lots and car dealerships all have a common concern. They are targets for catalytic converters. In nearly every region, cases of catalytic converter thefts have skyrocketed. Read Now

  • Planning for Your Perimeter

    Planning for Your Perimeter

    The perimeter is an organization’s first line of defense and a critical element of any security and surveillance program. Even if a building’s interior or exterior security is strong, without a solid perimeter surveillance approach any company or business is vulnerable. Read Now

  • The Key Issue

    The Key Issue

    It is February 2014. A woman is getting ready in her room on a cruise ship when she hears a knock on the door; it is a crewmember delivering breakfast. She is not presentable so she tells him to leave it by the door. Read Now

Featured Cybersecurity

New Products

  • Genetec Security Center

    Genetec Security Center

    This major new release allows more system components to run in the cloud, reducing the gap between cloud and on-premises security systems. It also makes it easier to connect external systems and tap external data for use in dashboards, maps and investigations without relying on complex, specialized integrations. 3

  • VideoEdge 2U High Capacity Network Video Recorder

    VideoEdge 2U High Capacity Network Video Recorder

    Johnson Controls announces a powerful recording solution to meet demanding requirements with its VideoEdge 2U High Capacity Network Video Recorder. This solution combines the powerful capabilities of victor with the intelligence of VideoEdge NVRs, fueled by Tyco Artificial Intelligence, for video management that provides actionable insights to save time, money and lives. 3

  • Connect ONE’s powerful cloud-hosted management platform provides the means to tailor lockdowns and emergency mass notifications throughout a facility – while simultaneously alerting occupants to hazards or next steps, like evacuation.

    Connect ONE®

    Connect ONE’s powerful cloud-hosted management platform provides the means to tailor lockdowns and emergency mass notifications throughout a facility – while simultaneously alerting occupants to hazards or next steps, like evacuation. 3