House introduces cyber bill intended to safeguard energy sectors
House lawmakers introduced a cybersecurity bill on Thursday that would address rising cyber threats against U.S. energy sectors.
The Energy Cybersecurity University Leadership Program Act, a bill co-sponsored by Reps. Mike Carey (R-Ohio) and Deborah Ross (D-N.C.), would establish a grant program based at the Department of Energy intended to financially assist graduate students and postdoctoral researchers studying cybersecurity and energy infrastructure.
“Cyber threats on America’s energy sector have never been greater and must be met with urgent action to protect the critical infrastructure that makes modern life possible,” Carey said in a statement.
“Establishing the [program] will strengthen our resilience by further developing a high-skilled workforce with energy-specific cybersecurity expertise,” he added.
The bipartisan bill was inspired by recent cyber incidents including the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack last year, which forced the company to shut down operations for nearly a week. The incident caused gas shortages in several states as fuel prices spiked.
The legislation comes amid a series of alerts, issued by U.S. officials, warning companies in critical infrastructure to secure and upgrade their networks amid growing Russian cyber threats.
On Wednesday, U.S. federal agencies, along with foreign partners, issued a joint advisory about how Russia could potentially target critical infrastructure that could affect “organizations both within and beyond Ukraine.”
In a statement, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said that the advisory is “the most comprehensive view of the cyber threat posed by Russia to critical infrastructure released by government cyber experts since the invasion of Ukraine in February.”
Earlier this week, CISA Director Jen Easterly said that her agency is seeing “evolving intelligence” suggesting that Russia is potentially planning cyberattacks against critical infrastructure, particularly in the energy and finance sectors.
If signed into law, the legislation would require the secretary of Energy to submit a report to Congress with updates on the development and implementation of the program no later than one year after its passage.