Cyber bills gain ground on Capitol Hill- POLITICO | #malware | #ransomware | #education | #technology | #infosec


With help from Eric Geller

— The recent movement of almost a dozen federal cybersecurity bills is highlighting greater interest in cybersecurity following a spree of high-profile attacks.

— Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call for strengthening cybersecurity after a series of retaliatory cyberattacks could be a screen to cover up further Russian cyber aggression.

— A new joint ransomware task force could help bring together U.S. government efforts to tackle ransomware attacks.

Welcome to Morning Cybersecurity! I’m your host, Maggie Miller, standing in for Sam Sabin this week. I’m a native Texan, and usually Washington, D.C. summers pale in comparison, but this past weekend in the nation’s capital gave Texas a run for its money.

Have any tips and secrets to share with MC? Or thoughts on what we should track down next? Send what you’ve got to [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow along at @POLITICOPro and @MorningCybersec. Full team contact info below. Let’s get to it.

CYBER BILLS ON CAPITOL HILL: The passage of a flurry of standalone cybersecurity bills in the House in recent weeks is highlighting how interest in cybersecurity has sharpened on Capitol Hill after a difficult year of attacks.

— Action on cyber: President Joe Biden signed into law the Better Cybercrime Metrics Act and the National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium Act earlier this month, and the House passed around half a dozen cyber-related bills in the last two weeks including measures to providing cyber funding to state and local governments and to strengthen the federal cyber workforce.

The pace is no accident, following a series of incidents including the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline and the fallout from the SolarWinds hack. Prior to these attacks, the vast majority of cybersecurity bills were included in larger pieces of legislation, such as defense and appropriations packages. But after the chaos in 2021, cyber bills have been pushed into the spotlight for independent votes.

“We are having a bit of a spurt of independent bills independently passed in the House and Senate,” said Mark Montgomery, the director of CSC 2.0 and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “This is fantastic, this is the congressional process maturing to handle cybersecurity provisions alone, and I think overall it’s a very good thing.”

Montgomery noted that “good governance” bills are more likely to get standalone votes, particularly if there is not an obvious larger legislative effort to attach them to.

“I think there will be some cybersecurity in the fiscal year NDAA, and then there will be a handful more independent cybersecurity bills…any bills that are broader sweeping will probably be in the NDAA,” he predicted.

— Coming soon: Several of the bills approved by the House were previously passed by the Senate, and await Biden’s signature, including the State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act, which would help increase cybersecurity coordination between all levels of government.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will try to push forward additional legislation later this week, when the committee marks up the Intragovernmental Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act. The bill, which has bipartisan support on the panel, would require DHS to enter into cyber information sharing agreements with the House and Senate. Committee ranking member Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the lead sponsor of the bipartisan bill, told your MC host that moving forward on cybersecurity efforts was vital to defend the country.

“We’ve got to realize that in the 21st century, this is part of warfare as well, it’s not just the criminal attacks that are obviously happening, it’s also state-sponsored attacks from Russia and China,” Portman said. “We need to do more in terms of understanding what is going on.”

GUARD THE GRID: Recent comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin about cyberattacks against Russia could serve as justification for further cyber aggression as the war in Ukraine continues.

—Vlad’s mad: Putin brought up his concerns Friday while chairing a meeting of the Russian Federation Security Council, saying that since the invasion of Ukraine, “Russia has essentially become the target of aggression, of an information war,” including through cyberattacks against Russian government websites and critical infrastructure.

“The hackers attack from different countries in a well-coordinated effort,” Putin said. “These attacks are conducted by state-run structures, and we know that the armies of some countries officially include cyber troops.”

— Pot calling the kettle black: His comments came after months of the Kremlin using cyberattacks against Ukraine as part of its invasion tactics. The U.S., the United Kingdom and the European Union this month attributed an attack in February on Ukrainian satellite provider Viasat to Russia, an incident that disrupted Ukrainian networks, while Ukrainian officials blamed Russia for an unsuccessful cyberattack against the nation’s energy infrastructure in April.

In response, a worldwide army of hacktivists have sprung up to defend Ukraine and target Russia. The Washington Post reported earlier this month that more sensitive data from Russia was uploaded to the worldwide web in March than from any other country.

—Potential smokescreen: As Russia flounders on the battlefield, Putin may use the attacks against his own country to justify hitting back in more damaging ways.

“I am concerned that the Kremlin could be legitimizing a future escalation with statements like this,” said John Hultquist, the vice president of intelligence analysis at cybersecurity group Mandiant. “Even if the incidents Putin refers to are not being carried out by state actors, they may suspect as much, especially given their habit of impersonating hacktivists themselves.”

—Hacktivism could be a problem: Biden warned in March that “evolving intelligence” pointed to Putin considering directing cyberattacks against U.S. critical infrastructure. During Biden and Putin’s face-to-face meeting in Switzerland last year, Biden urged him to take action against Russian hackers attacking U.S. organizations, and warned of consequences if Russian-linked attacks continued. But as Western-linked hacktivists take aim at Russia, the script has flipped.


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