House Dem introduces bill requiring public firms to disclose cybersecurity expertise in leadership

House Dem introduces bill requiring public firms to disclose cybersecurity expertise in leadership
© Greg Nash

A Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee introduced a bill on Wednesday that would require publicly traded companies to disclose to investors whether any members of their board of directors have cybersecurity expertise amid growing cyberattacks targeting U.S. companies.

Rep. Jim HimesJames (Jim) Andres HimesDemocrats debate how and when to get House back in action Democrats get assurances from Cuccinelli on immigrants, coronavirus care Gaetz wears gas mask on House floor during vote on bill to fight coronavirus MORE (D-Conn.) introduced the Cybersecurity Disclosure Act of 2019, a companion bill introduced in the upper chamber, that would make the Securities and Exchange Commission issue a new set of rules requiring U.S. companies to tell their investors whether they have someone who has cyber expertise on their board. If they don't, they must explain to their investors why this is the case.

The bill comes at a time when "cyberattacks and data breaches against U.S. companies are becoming more frequent and sophisticated," according to a press release accompanying the rollout of the bill.

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The press release cited a study from Identity Theft Resource Center that found there was a 126 percent rise of data breaches that exposed records containing personally identifiable information. This rise took place across all industries, from 197.6 million in 2017 to 446.5 million in 2018. 

"It's not only the shareholders of companies who are at risk," Himes said in a statement. "Americans' private and identifying information is in the hands of corporations who may not be prepared to protect it. The Cybersecurity Disclosure Act will give the public information about which companies are likely to have better protections and cyberdefense strategies."

"Publicly traded companies should have an obligation to let their shareholders know how they are addressing these serious threats or explain why they are not taking measures to counter attacks.  Billions of dollars of American wealth are at risk, and I am tired of seeing American companies play catchup against our geopolitical rivals or lone-wolf threats," he continued.

The Senate companion bill has bipartisan support, with Sens. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedBipartisan Senate panel leaders back fund to deter China The Hill's Coronavirus Report: National Portrait Gallery's Kim Sajet says this era rewiring people's relationship with culture, art; Trump's war with Twitter heats up Overnight Defense: Trump to withdraw US from Open Skies Treaty | Pentagon drops ban on recruits who had virus | FBI says Corpus Christi shooting terror-related MORE (D-R.I.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerVirginia senator calls for Barr to resign over order to clear protests Trump asserts his power over Republicans Expanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support MORE (D-Va.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsClyburn: Cowed GOP ascribes 'mystical powers' to Trump Trump pushes back against GOP senators' criticism of dispersal of protesters in Lafayette Square: 'You got it wrong' Trump, Biden battle to shape opinion on scenes of unrest MORE (R-Maine) and John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.).