DHS Cyber Incident Response Team Gets House Approval

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Lawmakers passed legislation that would stand up a permanent team of cyber specialists to help agency and industry recover from digital attacks.

House lawmakers on Monday approved a bill that would stand up a crack team of government cyber defenders who could parachute in when networks come under attack.

The DHS Cyber Incident Response Teams Act would create a permanent group of security specialists that agencies and industry could call on when their IT infrastructure gets compromised. The teams, housed within the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, would assist victims in containing the damage and restoring networks after digital attacks.

“When cyber-attacks occur, immediate expertise is needed to mitigate damage and ensure organizations are restored,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the legislation’s sponsor and former House Homeland Security Committee chairman, said in a statement. “[The bill] 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.”

A previous version of the legislation passed the House in 2018 but never received a vote in the Senate. Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., are sponsoring the bill’s current Senate counterpart, which was approved by committee in February.

Besides cleaning up after cyberattacks, the teams would be responsible for helping partners in the public and private sector understand the latest cyber risks and create strategies for defending against attacks. Officials also have the option to staff teams with cyber specialists from the private sector.

After four years, the Homeland Security officials would be required to supply Congress with stats on the teams’ performance. The legislation includes no additional funding for the effort.

On Monday, the House also passed a bill that would provide legislative backing for the department’s National Urban Security Technology Lab, which focuses on advancing technologies to help first responders fight terrorist threats. Agency officials recently said they planned to shutter the facility to accommodate significant budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration.