House votes to require Pentagon to report Russian cyberattacks


House lawmakers late Wednesday advanced a provision that would require the Pentagon to report attempts by Russian actors to hack its systems.

The amendment was introduced by Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) to annual defense policy legislation and approved by the full House Wednesday night. 

Lawmakers’ decision to sign off on the provision comes amid heightened concerns over the Russian government’s use of cyberattacks in what the U.S. intelligence community has concluded was a campaign to influence the outcome of the United States’ 2016 presidential election.

{mosads}Specifically, the amendment would require Defense Secretary James Mattis, in coordination with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates, to report to Congress any attempts by the Russian government or actors it supports to attack the Defense Department’s systems within the last two years. 

“World War III is raging right now. Every day attacks are being carried out and we need to be prepared,” Correa said in a statement late Wednesday.

In May, Time magazine reported that an intelligence report indicated that Russian hackers had targeted Pentagon Twitter accounts with malware-laden messages. 

The House began debating the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Wednesday and will continue on Thursday. The full Senate has yet to consider its version of the bill, which advanced out of the Senate Armed Services Committee at the end of June.

Correa also successfully introduced an amendment to the House legislation that would require the Pentagon to update its cyber strategy and mandate that President Trump develop a strategy for the use of offensive cyber capabilities. It would also allow the Defense Department to provide technical assistance to NATO partners.

“My amendments are about creating the procedures necessary to keep our infrastructure, our networks, and our data safe from our adversaries,” Correa said. 

Lawmakers like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have repeatedly voiced the need for a comprehensive cyber strategy that addresses the Pentagon’s use of cyber capabilities.

Cybersecurity has attracted increased focus on Capitol Hill amid the federal probe into Russian election interference, which includes exploring whether there was coordination between Trump’s campaign and Moscow. 

Last week, Trump pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin on the election hacking during a meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Germany. Later, he said that he and Putin had discussed forming a joint cyber unit with Russia — a proposal he eventually walked back after criticism from lawmakers in both parties. 

Some Democrats have introduced legislation that would block funding for such cyber cooperation with Moscow.

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