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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 HimesHouse panel spars over GameStop frenzy, trading apps COVID-19 could complicate Pelosi's path to Speaker next year Democrats debate fate of Trump probes if Biden wins 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 ReedJack ReedOvernight Defense: Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform | US troops begin leaving Afghanistan | Biden budget delay pushes back annual defense policy bill Biden budget delay pushes back annual defense policy bill Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap MORE (D-R.I.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerFacebook board decision on Trump ban pleases no one Schumer works to balance a divided caucus's demands Senate Intel vows to 'get to the bottom' of 'Havana syndrome' attacks MORE (D-Va.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts House to advance appropriations bills in June, July Manchin touts rating as 'most bipartisan senator' MORE (R-Maine) and John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.).