Cybersecurity

Senate panel advances bill to protect government devices against cyber threats

A Senate committee on Wednesday advanced legislation aimed at securing government-purchased devices against cyber threats, a move that comes just weeks after a companion bill moved forward in the House.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved by voice vote the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act, a measure designed to establish cybersecurity standards for federal devices that are connected to the internet. 

Under the legislation, the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would be charged with creating the guidelines and the Office of Management and Budget would inform agencies of the security standards to make sure that IoT devices purchased are consistent with the NIST standards.

IoT devices include those with internet connections and those that are able to send and receive data, such as laptops and mobile phones.

The bill's lead sponsors are Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), the co-chairs of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus.

Warner said in a statement following the vote that the Senate committee took "an important step forward" in securing government IoT devices by approving the legislation, and that this could encourage the establishment of minimum cybersecurity standards for IoT devices outside of government.

Gardner said he "looks forward to it being swiftly signed into law."

The bipartisan companion bill in the House was approved by the Oversight and Reform Committee earlier this month.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee also advanced the State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act during the same markup Wednesday. That bill, introduced Tuesday by ranking member Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would promote stronger cybersecurity coordination between the Department of Homeland Security and state and local governments.

Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) plans to introduce a House version of the measure, though the timing for that is unclear.

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