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 McConnellGrassley pressured to run as Democrats set sights on Iowa House Democrats grow frustrated as they feel ignored by Senate Democrats question GOP shift on vaccines 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 McCaulAfghan evacuees to be housed at Virginia base Passport backlog threatens to upend travel plans for millions of Americans US lawmakers express shock at Haitian president's assassination MORE (R-Texas), Jim LangevinJames (Jim) R. LangevinCybersecurity bills gain new urgency after rash of attacks Senate unanimously approves Jen Easterly to lead DHS cyber agency Hackers zero in on Tokyo Olympics MORE (D-R.I.), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoSenators introduce bipartisan bill to secure critical groups against hackers House erupts in anger over Jan. 6 and Trump's role McCarthy yanks all GOP picks from Jan. 6 committee MORE (R-N.Y.), Dutch RuppersbergerCharles (Dutch) Albert RuppersbergerHouse lawmakers roll out bill to invest 0 million in state and local cybersecurity House approves cyber funds in relief package as officials press for more Maryland lawmakers ask Biden to honor Capital Gazette shooting victims with Presidential Medal of Freedom MORE (D-Md.), and John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeUFOs are an intriguing science problem; Congress must act accordingly How transparency on UFOs can unite a deeply divided nation Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting MORE (R-Texas). 

The Senate version of the bill was introduced in February and is sponsored by Sens. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanPoll: Potential Sununu-Hassan matchup in N.H. a dead heat  Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor Democrat calls on Olympics to rectify situation after Paralympian drops out of games MORE (D-N.H.) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSunday shows - Jan. 6 investigation dominates Senate Republican 'not happy' with Pelosi plan to delay infrastructure vote Sunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe 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 SchumerCould Andrew Cuomo — despite scandals — be re-elected because of Trump? Democratic negotiator: 'I believe we will' have infrastructure bill ready on Monday DACA court ruling puts weight of immigration reform on Democrats 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 TrumpRonny Jackson, former White House doctor, predicts Biden will resign McCarthy: Pelosi appointing members of Jan. 6 panel who share 'pre-conceived narrative' Kinzinger denounces 'lies and conspiracy theories' while accepting spot on Jan. 6 panel MORE’s desk for signature.