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U.S. Senate Passes Bipartisan Hassan-Portman Bill Strengthening Public & Private Cybersecurity Efforts

Bipartisan Legislation Would Bolster Cybersecurity at Local and Federal Level to Mitigate Impact of Cyberattacks Like One that Hit Strafford County, New Hampshire

WASHINGTON – The United States Senate passed bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) to bolster cybersecurity in the public and private sector.

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. 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. Local governments could request assistance from the teams in the event of an attack, such as the one that occurred in Strafford County, New Hampshire. The bill first needs to be passed by the United State House of Representatives before heading to the President’s desk.

“As cyber threats become increasingly common, it is crucial that everyone from the federal government to local governments like Strafford County have the resources and support that they need to strengthen their cybersecurity,” Senator Hassan said. “This bipartisan legislation will allow the best minds in cybersecurity to work together to better protect our digital infrastructure and to respond to attacks. I am pleased that this commonsense bill passed the Senate, and I urge my colleagues in the House to pass it without delay.”

“Our cyber 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 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.” 

Senator Hassan was briefed in July by officials in Strafford County, New Hampshire, including County Administrator Ray Bower and Sheriff David Dubois, on a cyberattack that hit the county government.

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.