Senate Passes Bill to Boost Federal Cyber Aid to Private, Public Sectors

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The Senate on Sept. 24 passed a bill that would increase the Federal government’s ability to respond to and aid government agencies and private-sector companies that are involved in major cyber incidents.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cyber Hunt and Incident Response Teams Act would mandate that DHS form and maintain permanent incident response teams to “assist in protecting infrastructure from cyber threats and help restore the functionality of private or public infrastructure following a cyberattack.” DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) would manage the teams.

“The teams must also identify cybersecurity risks, develop mitigation strategies, and provide guidance to infrastructure owners,” the legislation says, adding, “The bill helps build public-private cybersecurity specialists on the teams.”

The House passed its version of the bill – which Reps. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, Jim Langevin, D-R.I., John Katko, R-N.Y., Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., and John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, cosponsored – in June. The House passed the legislation in 2018 as well, but the Senate failed to vote on the measure in the last session of Congress.

Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, introduced this year’s Senate bill in February and it was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

“By encouraging the private sector and the Department of Homeland Security’s cyber response teams to work together, this legislation will foster collaboration between the best minds in the field of cybersecurity to help fend off cyberattacks and protect vital infrastructure,” Hassan said in a statement about the bill

“I am glad the Senate passed our bipartisan legislation and I hope we send it to the president’s desk soon so that we can strengthen our response efforts in the event of a cyberattack,” Portman added after the Senate voted on the legislation.

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