House lawmakers introduce bill to increase American awareness of cyber threats

House lawmakers introduce bill to increase American awareness of cyber threats
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A group of bipartisan House lawmakers on Thursday introduced legislation to step up cybersecurity literacy and increase awareness among the American public amid a spike in cyber threats against critical infrastructure. 

The American Cybersecurity Literacy Act would require the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to establish a cyber literacy campaign to help promote understanding of how to stay safe online and prevent successful cyberattacks.

The campaign will include lessons on how to identify malicious phishing emails, the need to change passwords often and use multifactor authentication on sensitive accounts, and highlight cyber risks posed by the use of publicly available WiFi hot spots, among other issues.

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The legislation is led by Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerMcCarthy pulls GOP picks off House economic panel GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger Five takeaways from a bracing day of Jan. 6 testimony MORE (R-Ill.) and co-sponsored by Reps. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHouse committee approves slate of bills to improve telecom security Hillicon Valley: House advances six bills targeting Big Tech after overnight slugfest | Google to delay cookie phase out until 2023 | Appeals court rules against Baltimore Police Department aerial surveillance program House lawmakers introduce bill to increase American awareness of cyber threats MORE (D-Calif.), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Marc VeaseyMarc Allison VeaseyWe must address the declining rate of startup business launches Ted Cruz accuses Democrats of proposing 'Jim Crow 2.0' voting legislation The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots MORE (D-Texas) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.). 

The bill comes in the wake of several major debilitating cyberattacks aimed at the U.S. in recent months.

The SolarWinds hack, carried out by Russian government-backed hackers, compromised nine federal agencies and 100 private sector groups. More recently, ransomware attacks on Colonial Pipeline, the supplier of almost half the East Coast’s gas, and on JBS USA, the nation’s largest beef provider, threatened critical supply chains. 

The bill’s sponsors sounded the alarm Thursday about the increasing cyber threats, with Kinzinger saying in a statement that it was critical for Americans to understand the risks they pose. 

“Over the past few months, we have seen rampant cyberattacks across the United States that have disrupted business, increased consumer costs, and threatened our national security,” Kinzinger said. “In order to prevent these attacks going forward, we must combine public awareness with targeted cyber education.”

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“Cybersecurity attacks and data breaches are increasingly common, costing private companies and consumers billions of dollars and exposing the private information of countless Americans,” Eshoo said in a statement. “As attackers become more sophisticated, Americans must have the tools to identify risks and protect themselves from attacks.” 

Bilirakis represents the district that includes Oldsmar, Fla., where a hacker earlier this year gained access to the water treatment plan and unsuccessfully attempted to poison the water supply. 

Bilirakis pointed to the incident, noting in a separate statement Thursday that “these incidents underscore the importance of fortifying and modernizing our critical infrastructure to prevent further attacks.”

Veasey said that the legislation would “make us all safer in the long run,” while Houlahan stressed that “attacks on our cyber infrastructure are one of the gravest threats we face as a nation.”

Interest in cybersecurity legislation on Capitol Hill has spiked following the string of cyberattacks, with lawmakers in the Senate moving to introduce multiple other bills to address the increasing cyber threats against the nation from foreign governments and cyber criminals.