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US Lawmakers Propose Bill to Fortify Federal Cybersecurity

A bill intended to strengthen and modernize the cybersecurity of federal agencies will be introduced to the United States House of Representatives this week.

The Advancing Cybersecurity Diagnostics and Mitigation Act would formally codify the dynamic Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program, introduced by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2013 to ensure federal agencies can access the industry-leading tools and services they need to fight cybercrime.

Under the CDM program, agency-installed sensors are deployed to search for known cybersecurity flaws. Results from the sensors are fed into an agency dashboard, which produces automated reports and issues prioritized alerts for the systems most vulnerable to attack. 

This steady flow of reports and alerts is used by network managers to allocate resources based on the severity of the risk of attack, allowing them to respond to threats in a matter of minutes. Progress reports and summary information is then fed into a federal enterprise-level dashboard. 

The bill, which will be introduced by Representatives John Ratcliffe and Ro Khanna, requires that the CDM program be made available to state, local, and tribal governments. It also demands that the DHS comes up with a strategy that will allow the CDM program to tackle new cyber-threats as they emerge. 

Ratcliffe was in the running to become America’s next national intelligence director but withdrew himself from consideration following a dearth of support for his candidacy. 

Commenting on the proposed bill, Ratcliffe said: "As cyber-threats continue to increase in frequency and complexity, we must constantly work to enhance our nation’s cyber-defense capabilities.” 

Khanna said: “The technology is there: we just have to ensure our agencies have the necessary tools to defend against hackers and cyber-threats. A strong CDM program will be instrumental in that effort.”

Senate version of the bill was introduced in July 2019 by Senators Maggie Hassan and John Cornyn. It was referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee but is yet to produce any action beyond uniting Democrats and Republicans in the fight against a common enemy. 

Hassan said: “I'm pleased that the House of Representatives is introducing their version of this critical bill, and I look forward to continuing to work on a bipartisan basis across the House and Senate to move this bill forward."

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