House lawmakers introduce bill to increase American awareness of cyber threats


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.

The legislation is led by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and co-sponsored by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Marc Veasey (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.”

“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.

Tags Adam Kinzinger Anna Eshoo Colonial Pipeline Company Cyberattack Gus Bilirakis JBS USA Marc Veasey
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