House panel advances DHS cyber vulnerabilities bills

House panel advances DHS cyber vulnerabilities bills
© Greg Nash

The House Homeland Security Committee on Thursday advanced a pair of bills addressing cyber vulnerabilities at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Only minor amendments were offered for both bills, which were passed during what is expected to be the committee’s final markup of the legislative session.

Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeCongress can open the door to true digital service delivery in government Hillicon Valley: Russian-linked hackers may have impersonated US officials | Trump signs DHS cyber bill | Prosecutors inadvertently reveal charges against Assange | Accenture workers protest border enforcement work | App mines crypto for bail bonds McCarthy, other Republicans back Ratcliffe to be next attorney general MORE (R-Texas) introduced an amendment to make technical changes to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — NRCC exposes security flaws 2 years after Russia hacks | Google Plus to shut down early | Scathing House report scolds Equifax for breach | McCarthy knocks Google ahead of CEO's hearing Brady releases revised version of year-end tax package McCarthy dismisses Dem-led Trump probes MORE’s (R-Calif.) bill, which would create a cyber vulnerability policy at DHS.

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Ratcliffe said his amendment will ensure that the policy clearly lays out how DHS communicates with security researchers about how to mitigate or solve identified vulnerabilities.

Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.) praised McCarthy's bill, saying that it will open the door to creating a stronger relationship between the agency and well-intentioned hackers who can help identify vulnerabilities.

The committee also advanced a bill introduced by Sen. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanNew Hampshire's secretary of state narrowly holds seat New Hampshire Dem icon at risk after work with Trump Dem senators call on DeVos to rescind new campus sexual assault policies MORE (D-N.H.) to create a “bug bounty” program at DHS, known as the Hack the Department of Homeland Security Act.

Langevin also supported this legislation, saying he has seen a similar program succeed for the Department of Defense, but he issued a warning about the amount of work that would have to go into fixing identified bugs. He questioned whether the department has the resources to run a successful bounty program.

"A bug bounty will attract thousands and thousands of eyes and you have to be prepared for that," Langevin said. "All of which is to say, I still do have questions about the department’s ability to implement a successful bug bounty program."

He also introduced an amendment to the bill that clarifies that security researchers could offer their assistance to DHS for the program without receiving compensation.

Committee Chairman Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulPuerto Ricans may have elected Rick Scott and other midterm surprises Midterm results shake up national map Senate passes key cyber bill cementing cybersecurity agency at DHS MORE (R-Texas) ended the hearing by noting that while the House has passed more than 100 pieces of legislation that originated with the committee over the past session, the Senate has failed to address many of the bills.

He said he spoke with Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonOvernight Defense: Trump at G-20 | Calls Ukraine 'sole reason' for canceling Putin meeting | Senate passes resolution condemning Russian actions | Armed Services chairmen warn against defense cuts Senate passes resolution condemning Russian aggression against Ukraine Overnight Defense: Trump faces new Russia test over Ukraine | Cancels plans to meet Putin at G-20 | Officials float threat of military action against Iran MORE (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, on Wednesday about prioritizing some of those pieces of legislation.

“I really wish the Senate would act,” McCaul said, adding that “99 percent” of the bills were “unanimous, bipartisan good governance bills.”