‘Cyber First Responders’ Could Become Part of DHS

Legislation passed in the House would create a specialized unit within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) dedicated to protecting federal agencies and the private sector against cyber-attacks. The legislation would foster cooperation between DHS and the private sector to identify and combat threats.

The legislation would create cyber incident response teams within the DHS’s National Cybersecurity Communications Integration Center that would include government employees and private sector representatives.

Lead sponsor Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX) explained on the House floor, “When cyber-attacks occur, immediate expertise is needed to mitigate damage and ensure organizations are restored. Cyber Incident Response Teams provide that expertise and function as our cyber first responders. Today’s legislation ensures that the Department of Homeland Security can foster collaboration between the public and private sector to ensure our nation can continue to adapt to the constant changes in the cyber landscape.”

The teams would be tasked with restoring services following a cyberattack, identifying cybersecurity risks, and creating mitigating strategies to prevent and deter cyberattacks.

This legislation comes just days after a “malicious cyberattack” on a subcontractor of the DHS’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. The attack exposed travelers’ photos and license plate information.

In a statement, CBP expressed that they would “unwaveringly work with all partners to determine the extent of the breach and the appropriate response,” and that the subcontractor transferred the data “without CBP’s authorization or knowledge” in violation of “mandatory security and privacy protocols outlined in their contract.”

The bill has a Senate companion measure sponsored by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) along with Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH). The Senate version was passed by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in April and awaits a floor vote.

“I am pleased that the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve companion legislation to our bipartisan bill that will help prevent and mitigate cyberattacks that threaten the safety, security, and privacy of Granite Staters and Americans,” Senator Hassan said. “I urge the Senate to vote on this commonsense legislation as soon as possible to help strengthen our country’s cyber defenses.”

The DHS Cyber Incident Response Teams Act passed by voice vote on Tuesday.

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