Senate approves bill to boost cyber assistance for federal agencies, private sector

Senate approves bill to boost cyber assistance for federal agencies, private sector
© Stefani Reynolds

The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation intended to boost the federal government’s ability to respond to and assist agencies and private sector companies in the event of debilitating cyber incidents. 

The DHS Cyber Hunt and Incident Response Teams Act would require that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) maintain permanent “teams” that could be deployed to assist in cases of cyberattacks or in order to identify vulnerabilities that could allow for a cyberattack to take place. 

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMomentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Trump expects to nominate woman to replace Ginsburg next week Video of Lindsey Graham arguing against nominating a Supreme Court justice in an election year goes viral MORE (R-Ky.) brought the bill up for unanimous consent on Tuesday, with the legislation passing shortly after. 

The House already passed its version in June, sponsored by Reps. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulEngel subpoenas US global media chief Michael Pack Russia continues Navalny probe, wants to send additional investigators to Germany Pompeo says 'substantial chance' Navalny poisoning was ordered by senior Russian official MORE (R-Texas), Jim LangevinJames (Jim) R. LangevinPandemic underscores demand for career and technical education Rep. Jim Langevin fends off Democratic primary challenge in RI DHS cyber agency issues order boosting cybersecurity vulnerability reporting MORE (D-R.I.), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoThis week: House returns for pre-election sprint Hillicon Valley: Simulated cyberattack success | New bill for election security funding | Amazon could be liable for defective products Lawmakers introduce bill to help election officials address cyber vulnerabilities MORE (R-N.Y.), Dutch RuppersbergerCharles (Dutch) Albert RuppersbergerHillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations Lawmakers introduce bill designating billion to secure state and local IT systems Lawmakers introduce legislation to establish national cybersecurity director MORE (D-Md.), and John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeOvernight Defense: Top admiral says 'no condition' where US should conduct nuclear test 'at this time' | Intelligence chief says Congress will get some in-person election security briefings FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Trump contradicts CDC director on vaccine, masks MORE (R-Texas). 

The Senate version of the bill was introduced in February and is sponsored by Sens. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanCongress needs to prioritize government digital service delivery Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Hillicon Valley: Feds warn hackers targeting critical infrastructure | Twitter exploring subscription service | Bill would give DHS cyber agency subpoena power MORE (D-N.H.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanRomney undecided on authorizing subpoenas for GOP Obama-era probes Congress needs to prioritize government digital service delivery House passes B bill to boost Postal Service MORE (R-Ohio).

The legislation had also previously been approved by the House during the 115th Congress, but failed to get a vote in the Senate. 

The bill was recently touted by Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerVideo of Lindsey Graham arguing against nominating a Supreme Court justice in an election year goes viral Graham signals support for confirming a Supreme Court nominee this year Pelosi orders Capitol flags at half-staff to honor Ginsburg MORE (D-N.Y.) as a way to respond to a rash of ransomware attacks that have hit government entities and other groups nationwide over the past few months. These attacks involve malicious actors locking a system and demanding a ransom before giving the user access again. 

“It’s clear that our state is under siege from these attacks, and we must do more to ward them off,” Schumer said at an event on Monday. “That’s why today I’m pushing a two-pronged effort to fight back against these cyber crooks by urging Congress to quickly pass the bipartisan DHS Cyber Hunt and Incident Response Team Act and by calling on the FBI to quickly and thoroughly investigate the incidents that have plagued New York and then brief Congress.”

Hassan tweeted Wednesday that “with cyberattacks on the rise, we must strengthen our cybersecurity,” and praised the bill advancing closer to being signed into law.

The Senate approved the bill by voice vote with a substitute amendment from Hassan included, meaning the House must approve the changed legislation before it can be sent to President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Trump supporters chant 'Fill that seat' at North Carolina rally MORE’s desk for signature.