Monday, January 25th, 2021

Sens. Portman, Peters to work on cybersecurity legislation in light of hack

© Shutterstock

U.S. Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), who will lead the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in the new Congress, plan to hold hearings and develop comprehensive cybersecurity legislation in 2021.

The lawmakers also issued a statement on the recent cyberattacks on various federal government agencies that U.S. intelligence officials believe was conducted by Russia.

“The recently discovered and ongoing cyber-attacks cannot be tolerated and demonstrate the weakness of our cyber defenses and capacity to respond. These attacks were highly complex, and they must be unraveled to know the full extent of the exposure to federal and state agencies and the private sector. The immediate effort must be to stop the immediate threat and ensure our systems are secure. We will, in the future, need to understand the full scope and impact to ensure that we know what damage has been done and to better prepare to respond next time. These types of sophisticated attacks are going to continue, and we must work across the federal government, as well as with our private sector and state and local partners, to learn from this and strengthen our cyber defenses moving forward,” Peters and Portman said.

Peters is the committee’s current ranking member and has been tapped for a leadership role in the next Congress.

“In June 2019, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a bipartisan report that extensively documented the cybersecurity vulnerabilities and weaknesses in many of our federal agencies, including the Departments of State and Homeland Security. Next Congress, through the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, we intend to work together to understand the origin, scope, and severity of this breach, and plan to work on bipartisan comprehensive legislation to improve our cyber defenses to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” the lawmakers said.

In the current Congress, Peters and Portman introduced a bill to require the federal government to make better investments in cybersecurity protections. In December, the senators introduced a bipartisan bill that would increase transparency and modernize how the government responds to cybersecurity incidents on federal information systems. Further, the Senate approved their legislation to promote stronger cybersecurity coordination between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and state and local governments.