Following Reports of Russian Hacking Attacks on U.S. Utility Companies, Bipartisan DHS Cyber Incident Response Teams Act Encourages Private Sector Participation to Strengthen Cybersecurity 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), both members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced the bipartisan DHS Cyber Incident Response Teams Act to bolster cybersecurity by requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to make permanent the “cyber hunt” and “cyber incident response” teams that work to help prevent cyberattacks on federal agencies and the private sector, as well as help mitigate the impact of such attacks when they occur. Cyber response teams play a vital role to help federal agencies, critical infrastructure, and key private sector partners address cyber challenges and disrupt threats from cyber criminals, cyber terrorists, and hostile countries. 

The bipartisan DHS Cyber Incident Response Teams Act works to prevent cyberattacks like the reported Russian hacking attacks on U.S. electric utility companies by encouraging private sector participation with the cyber response teams.  

Our cyber response teams are important resources to protect critical networks and systems from cyber threats in both the public and private sectors,” Senator Portman said.I look forward to moving this important authorization through the Senate and to the president so that we can give DHS the guidance and authorities it needs to execute this important mission.” 

Reports that Russian hackers are carrying out sophisticated cyberattacks on U.S. electric utility companies are just the latest examples of the cyber threats our nation faces every single day, putting our security and privacy at risk,” Senator Hassan said.This bipartisan bill is an important step we can take to strengthen cybersecurity within federal agencies, our critical infrastructure, and in the private sector to ensure that our people and our country are safe. By encouraging private sector collaboration with the cyber response teams, this bill will help leverage the expertise of both the public and private sectors to help prevent cyberattacks from happening in the first place and mitigate the impacts when they occur. I am pleased that the U.S. House of Representatives has passed companion legislation, and I will keep working across the aisle to move the bill forward in the Senate.” 

NOTE: The bipartisan DHS Cyber Incident Response Teams Act would authorize the National Protection and Programs Directorate, under which the cyber response teams fall, and require DHS to maintain these teams and make them responsible for the following: 

  • Assisting asset owners and operators in restoring services following a cyber-incident;

·       Identifying potential cyber intrusions and cyber risks to its partners;

·       Developing mitigation strategies to prevent, deter, and protect against cyber threats; and

·       Providing recommendations to asset owners and operators for improving their network security. 

A companion bill, which was introduced by Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Senators Portman and Hassan have worked together to strengthen cybersecurity and prevent against attacks that threaten the safety, privacy, and security of Americans. The bipartisan Portman-Hassan Hack Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Act unanimously passed the Senate earlier this year. The bipartisan bill would establish 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. Click here to read a joint op-ed from Senators Portman and Hassan on their Hack DHS Act