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Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

The breach of the Capitol this week by pro-Trump rioters also put lawmakers' cybersecurity at risk.

Why it matters: Files, emails and other data lifted from lawmakers would have enormous value to hostile foreign powers, cybercriminals and other bad actors.

Driving the news: In a letter circulated Thursday to House lawmakers' offices and obtained by Axios, the chamber's chief administrative officer said "there have been no indications that the House network was compromised" but advised staff to make a full accounting of all devices and report back if anything appears missing or amiss.

  • The Justice Department warned in a briefing that stolen items, including electronics, could pose natural security risks, according to a Politico report.

Context: Rioters who stormed the Capitol entered Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, and a reporter tweeted (and has since deleted) a photo claiming to be of an unlocked computer with email open in her office.

  • Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said a laptop was stolen from an office he used in a video he posted showing damage to the room.
  • Pelosi and Merkley's offices did not respond to requests for comment.

How it works: If any congressional devices or networks were breached, either amid the chaos Wednesday or via, say, a USB drive surreptitiously inserted into a computer, that could mean not only theft of information but also the potential to insert malicious code for future exploitation or mischief.

  • A Hill aide told Axios it's a high-impact, low probability situation: "From a cybersecurity standpoint, I don't think anybody was really prepared for the amount of physical access that appeared yesterday."

Reality check: Classified and other highly sensitive information doesn't just sit around on House office laptops, and there's no indication any of the people who stormed the Capitol were there as cyberspies. But even the small risk of congressional networks being breached is seriously troubling, say experts.

  • "I don’t know of [any evidence] that these individuals were able to manipulate data or steal data or destroy data, but I don’t think you can rule it out at this point, either," said Frank Cilluffo, director of the McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security at Auburn University.

The big picture: The concerns come as Washington is still reeling from revelations that Russian hackers breached computer systems at a number of key federal agencies as part of a sprawling hack that hit the U.S. private and public sectors alike.

Flashback: Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden has for years pushed the Senate to improve its cybersecurity practices, calling for two-factor authentication using personal identity verification cards in the chamber in 2017.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Descent into madness

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."

Starbucks drops worker vaccine mandate after SCOTUS ruling

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Starbucks announced in a memo to employees Tuesday that it has dropped plans to implement a vaccine mandate for all U.S. workers, AP reported on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The company's decision comes in response to the Supreme Court's ruling last week to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

1 hour ago - Health

Omicron hits American hospitals disproportionately hard

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

America is seeing more COVID hospitalizations than other wealthy countries during the Omicron surge, according to Our World in Data.

Why it matters: Vaccines keep the vast majority of COVID cases out of the hospital, but vaccination rates are also lower in the U.S. than these other countries.