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 McConnellOvernight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul McConnell hopes Senate impeachment trial 'not too lengthy a process' Former Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled 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 McCaulTexas GOP congressman calls on governor to postpone execution of Rodney Reed House Republicans add Hunter Biden, whistleblower to impeachment hearing witness wish list Trump: Whistleblower 'must come forward' MORE (R-Texas), Jim LangevinJames (Jim) R. LangevinHillicon Valley: Commerce extends Huawei waiver | Senate Dems unveil privacy bill priorities | House funding measure extends surveillance program | Trump to tour Apple factory | GOP bill would restrict US data going to China Trump makes social media a player in impeachment Bill introduced to give special immigrant visas to Kurds who helped US in Syria MORE (D-R.I.), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoProgressive group unveils first slate of 2020 congressional endorsements Democratic lawmakers call on Judiciary Committee to advance 'revenge porn' law Katie Hill resignation reignites push for federal 'revenge porn' law MORE (R-N.Y.), Dutch RuppersbergerCharles (Dutch) Albert RuppersbergerLawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show Hillicon Valley: Senate passes bill to boost cyber help for agencies, businesses | Watchdog warns Energy Department failing to protect grid | FTC sues Match for allegedly conning users Senate approves bill to boost cyber assistance for federal agencies, private sector MORE (D-Md.), and John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeTrump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' Five things to know about Tuesday's impeachment hearings Live coverage: House holds third day of public impeachment hearings MORE (R-Texas). 

The Senate version of the bill was introduced in February and is sponsored by Sens. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanHillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack Senate Democrats urge DHS to fund cyber threat information-sharing programs Hillicon Valley: Facebook launches 'News Tab' | Senate passes bill to take on 'deepfakes' | Schumer outlines vision for electric cars MORE (D-N.H.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanWhy Republicans are afraid to call a key witness in the impeachment inquiry Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump GOP lawmakers fear Trump becoming too consumed by impeachment fight 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis Schumer2020 Republicans accuse Schumer of snubbing legislation Schumer: Leadership trying to work out competing surprise medical bill measures Top GOP senator: Drug pricing action unlikely before end of year 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 TrumpDem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens 2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' MORE’s desk for signature.