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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 HimesOvernight Defense: Pentagon IG to audit use of COVID-19 funds on contractors | Dems optimistic on blocking Trump's Germany withdrawal | Obama slams Trump on foreign policy House panel urges intelligence community to step up science and technology efforts Hillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones 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 ReedGovernors urge negotiators to include top priorities in final defense policy bill Senate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Overnight Defense: Armed Services chairman unsold on slashing defense budget | Democratic Senate report details 'damage, chaos' of Trump foreign policy | Administration approves .8B Taiwan arms sales MORE (D-R.I.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate Intel leadership urges American vigilance amid foreign election interference Intel officials say Iran, Russia seeking to influence election Senate Intel leaders warn of election systems threats MORE (D-Va.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsHouse Judiciary Republicans mockingly tweet 'Happy Birthday' to Hillary Clinton after Barrett confirmation Barrett sworn in as Supreme Court justice by Thomas Roberts to administer judicial oath to Barrett Tuesday MORE (R-Maine) and John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.).