Lawmakers roll out bipartisan bill to help track cyber crimes

Lawmakers roll out bipartisan bill to help track cyber crimes
© Greg Nash

A group of bipartisan House and Senate lawmakers on Thursday introduced legislation intended to help the federal government better track and analyze cyber crime following a sharp increase in cyberattacks over the past year. 

The Better Cybercrime Metrics Act would kick off the process of improving how the government and law enforcement agencies collect data on cyber crime, with many crimes currently going unreported or untracked and making it more difficult for the government to take action.

The bill would implement steps to change this trend, such as requiring the Department of Justice to work with the National Academy of Sciences to develop a taxonomy on cyber crime. 

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It would also ensure the inclusion of cyber crime reports from officials at all levels in the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System, and require the Government Accountability Office to report on current cyber crime measures and the differences in reporting cybersecurity issues versus other criminal activities. 

The legislation is led by Rep. Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerHouse passes bills to secure telecommunications infrastructure McAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington Jill Biden campaigns for McAuliffe in Virginia MORE (D-Va.) in the House, with other sponsors including Reps. Blake Moore (R-Utah), Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.) and Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeBest shot at narrowing racial homeownership gap at risk, progressives say Youth voting organization launches M registration effort in key battlegrounds The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Gears begin to shift in Congress on stalled Biden agenda MORE (D-Texas).

The bill is simultaneously being introduced in the Senate by Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzDemocrats struggle to sell Biden plan amid feuding Emanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals MORE (D-Hawaii), with Sens. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair GOP rallies around Manchin, Sinema Advocates frustrated by shrinking legal migration under Biden MORE (R-N.C.), John CornynJohn CornynCornyn raises more than M for Senate GOP Is the Biden administration afraid of trade? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (R-Texas) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) co-sponsoring. 

“Cybercrime is increasingly putting American families, businesses, and government agencies at serious risk,” Spanberger said in a statement Thursday. “But for too long, our government has been woefully unprepared for the next generation of cyberattacks. Complacency with respect to our cybercrime classification system could jeopardize public safety, our ability to compete in the global economy, and even our national security.”

“Our nation’s crime classification system is out-of-date — and the Better Cybercrime Metrics Act takes commonsense steps to improve our cybercrime metrics, anticipate future trends, and make sure law enforcement agencies have the tools and resources they need,” she added. 

The bill was introduced in the wake of multiple major cybersecurity incidents in recent months, including the discovery of the SolarWinds hack in December that involved Russian government-linked hackers accessing systems of nine federal agencies and 100 private sector groups.

More recently, ransomware attacks on Colonial Pipeline and on meat producer JBS USA have highlighted vulnerabilities in critical supply chains, particularly following a year in which cyber criminals took advantage of vulnerable organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Garbarino, the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee’s cybersecurity subcommittee, said in a statement, “Cybercrime is rampant, but despite the rising number of attacks affecting Americans, we do not have a clear picture of the full scope of the problem,” and that “we have to use every tool at our disposal” to address the attacks. 

Jackson Lee, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, said Thursday that “in order to do more to counter cyber threats, we need better data concerning the incidence of these types of crimes.”

“America’s public safety and cyber superiority is on the line, and now is the time to act,” Moore said in a separate statement. 

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Cybersecurity has been an issue the Biden administration has been forced to prioritize from the first day President BidenJoe BidenBiden: Democrats' spending plan is 'a bigger darn deal' than Obamacare Biden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Biden: Comment that DOJ should prosecute those who defy subpoenas 'not appropriate' MORE took office due to the escalating incidents. The administration has taken a number of steps to address cyber threats, including Biden signing an executive order in May to strengthen the federal government’s cybersecurity and imposing sanctions on Russia for its involvement in the SolarWinds hack. 

Earlier this week, National Cyber Director Chris Inglis endorsed the idea of establishing a Bureau of Cyber Statistics at the Department of Homeland Security to collect, analyze, and publish information on cyber incidents provided by groups involved in cybersecurity. 

The new bill is not related to this effort, but Spanberger emphasized Thursday the need to take action in this space. 

“I am proud to lead the introduction of this bipartisan, bicameral legislation — because this bill would help prevent more Americans from becoming targets and victims online,” Spanberger said.