U.S. Senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.) introduced a bill Wednesday that would take steps to allow private sector companies to fight back against Cyber hackers attacking their business.
The bipartisan bill would direct the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a study of potential threats and risks that would allow companies to “fight back” in the event of an attack, an action currently prohibited by private sector groups.
Federal law currently only allows federal agencies to conduct attacks on hackers, while all other groups are prohibited from accessing other networks in any kind of unauthorized way.
Originally proposed as an amendment to U.S. innovation and competition law, the Senate approved it on bipartisan basis earlier this month, but it was ultimately not included in the sprawling science and technology package.
Daines stressed on Wednesday the need to ensure comprehensive action is taken to address the multifaceted cyberthreat.
“America has some of the best and brightest tech talent in the world — and we should do everything we can to support them, not hinder them,” Daines said in a statement. “The federal government should be doing more. to empower the private sector to directly address cyber threats from around the world, rather than tying their hands.”
The bill was formally introduced in the wake of escalating cyberattacks, such as the SolarWinds hack, which involved Russian government-backed hackers exploiting vulnerabilities in IT group SolarWinds updates to compromise nine federal agencies and 100 private sector groups.
More recently, a ransomware attack temporarily crippled operations at Colonial Pipeline, which provides 45% of the East Coast’s fuel, and JBS USA, the largest U.S. beef supplier.
In a separate statement, Whitehouse noted that attacks on the colonies caused gas shortages in several states when the pipeline was temporarily shut down last month, “suggesting why we should explore a regulated process for companies when they are targeted. respond.”
“This bill will help us determine whether this process can deter and respond to future attacks, and what guidelines American businesses should follow,” Whitehouse said.