House beefs up anti-hacker protections

The House is taking new steps to keep hackers out of staffers’ emails.

The chamber recently upgraded its cybersecurity infrastructure and is in the process of adding new protections to its email system, the chief administrative officer said in a memo to lawmakers and House staffers on Thursday.

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Everyone on the system will soon have to change their email passwords every 60 days, chief administrative officer Ed Cassidy said, and the minimum requirements for passwords will become stricter. 

“When creating a new password, please take care to create a strong one to protect your own information as well as the House’s overall cyber security posture,” Cassidy wrote.

A spokesman with the administrative office said that the upgrade had been in the works for a long time.

In his memo, Cassidy wrote that the upgrade of the House’s security protocols “was undertaken to enhance system performance and security.”

This summer, assistant chief administrative officer Darren Van Booven told Federal News Radio that the U.S. was locked in an “arms race” against hackers.

"As you come out with new and more advanced technologies to defend your networks, the adversaries are going to develop new and more sophisticated techniques to target you, as well as the malware that they're developing in order to collect your data,” he said.

“So, being in 2014, I think we've gone through the initial stages ... and we're definitely at a more advanced state,” he said.

Thursday’s upgrade comes just a week after JPMorgan Chase revealed that a massive data breach had affected 76 million household bank accounts, in an attack reportedly linked to Russian hackers. Similar hacks were attempted at a number of other financial institutions including Citigroup and HSBC, but no customers’ financial information was stolen.

According to The New York Times, the White House was closely monitoring those hacks and was unable to rule out the possibility that Russia was retaliating for sanctions from the West.

This story was updated at 6:19 p.m.