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Intelligence bill to require report on cybersecurity at U.S. ports

By Steve Bittenbender

Editor, Government Security News

The bill that authorizes funding for the country’s intelligence-related activities includes language that would require Homeland Security officials to give updates on the cybersecurity threats connected to the country’s maritime industry.

H.R. 5077 passed unanimously in the House Intelligence Committee late last month. It awaits a vote in the full House.

The Undersecretary of Homeland Security for Intelligence and Analysis would be required to consult with the Director of National Intelligence and give House and Senate Intelligence Committee members a report on the cyber threats and vulnerabilities within six months after the bill becomes law.

That report would include a description of recent attacks and attempts as well as any identified attacks being planned. The undersecretary also would need to address how the country’s ports and shipping concerns are mitigating their risks.

“This bill will keep the Intelligence Community fully funded so it can carry out its vital work protecting Americans from a wide range of pressing foreign threats,” said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes. “At the same time, the bill ensures that Congress has the means to conduct vigorous oversight over the Intelligence Community’s activities. I thank our committee’s members for their bipartisan work in drafting this bill, and I look forward to its swift passage in the House of Representatives.”  

In addition to port cybersecurity, the authorization bill includes funding for fighting terrorism and containing the growth of weapons of mass destruction. Other measures include updating whistleblowing procedures; strengthening oversight of the privacy and civil liberties board; and improving how the intelligence community provides reports to Congressional leaders, said Nunes, a California Republican.

The Intelligence bill is just the latest effort for lawmakers to strengthen cybersecurity at America’s ports. Last December, the House passed a similar standalone measure that would have required DHS to establish voluntary guidelines for reporting cybersecurity risks.

“More than $1.3 trillion in cargo moves annually through our nation’s 360 commercial ports, and many of the goods that enter through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach come to my district before being shipped to the rest of the country,” said Rep. Norma Torres, the California Democrat who sponsored the bill.  “With this much economic activity and the increased use of cyber technology to manage port operations ranging from communication and navigation to engineering, safety, and cargo, it is critical to protect our maritime cyber infrastructure.”

Torres’ bill also requires DHS to make recommendations for improving how maritime officials share cyber information.

“During a recent homeland security hearing, we learned of significant cybersecurity vulnerabilities at our nation’s ports,” said Torres, after her bill was passed in December.  “There appears to currently be little coordination between port landlords and tenants in addressing cyber threats, and federal agencies have only recently started to consider the impact that a cyber-attack could pose to our maritime infrastructure.  This legislation will ensure the necessary planning and coordination is in place to protect the ports that form the backbone of our nation’s economy.”

 

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