December 17, 2019

Bipartisan Hassan-Portman Legislation to Strengthen Public and Private Sector Cybersecurity Efforts Included in Government Funding Agreement

Following Recent Cyberattacks in New Hampshire, Bipartisan Legislation Would Bolster State and Local Cybersecurity

WASHINGTON – Bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) to bolster cybersecurity in the public and private sector is expected to be signed into law as part of the final bipartisan budget agreement to fund the government for the next fiscal year.


The bipartisan Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cyber Hunt and Incident Response Teams Act would require that the Department of Homeland Security make permanent “cyber hunt” and “cyber incident response” teams to work to help prevent cyberattacks at all levels of government and the private sector, and help mitigate the impact of such attacks when they occur. Local and state governments, as well as businesses, hospitals, and other entities, could request assistance from the teams in the event of an attack. The bill also authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to include private sector experts on the teams in order to bring to bear their non-governmental cyber expertise.


“I am very pleased that bipartisan legislation that I introduced with Senator Portman to better prevent and respond to cyberattacks is included in this year-end package,” Senator Hassan said. “From local officials working to protect New Hampshire communities to federal agencies tasked with shoring up cybersecurity, it’s clear that there is more we need to do to strengthen cybersecurity at every level. This bipartisan legislation takes an important step forward in these efforts, equipping public and private sector entities with the expertise that they need to strengthen their cyber defenses and respond to threats. I urge the President to sign this bill into law without delay once it reaches his desk.”


“Our cyber hunt and incident response teams play an important role in protecting against cyber threats, reducing cybersecurity risks, and helping to get our cyber infrastructure back up and running after an attack occurs,” Senator Portman said. “I am glad that the final FY 2020 funding bill includes our bipartisan legislation so that we can strengthen our response and recovery efforts in the event of a cyberattack.” 


Senator Hassan recently met with officials at Sunapee Middle/High School following a ransomware attack that hit the district earlier this year. In this case, the school district was able to get the school back online and restore data – without paying the ransom. In July, Senator Hassan was briefed by officials in Strafford County on a cyberattack that hit the county government. Strafford County had prepared for an attack like this ahead of time and was able to implement a continuity of operations plan – in this case by reverting to pen and paper – allowing the government to continue its essential functions.


Senators Hassan and Portman have worked together to strengthen cybersecurity and prevent against attacks that threaten the safety, privacy, and security of Americans. The bipartisan Hassan-Portman Hack Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Act and Public-Private Cybersecurity Cooperation Act were included in a package of bills that were signed into law last year. The Hack DHS Act establishes a bug bounty pilot program – modeled off of similar programs at the Department of Defense and major tech companies – that uses vetted “white-hat” or ethical hackers to help identify unique and undiscovered vulnerabilities in the DHS networks and information technology. The Public-Private Cybersecurity Cooperation Act complements the Hack DHS Act by requiring DHS to establish a cyber-vulnerabilities disclosure program so that vulnerabilities in DHS’ cyber systems can be easily reported and fixed.