The Hill: Lawmakers roll out bipartisan bill to help track cyber crimes

THE HILL, MAGGIE MILLER

A group of bipartisan House and Senate lawmakers on Thursday introduced legislation intended to help the federal government better track and analyze cyber crime following a sharp increase in cyberattacks over the past year. 

The Better Cybercrime Metrics Act would kick off the process of improving how the government and law enforcement agencies collect data on cyber crime, with many crimes currently going unreported or untracked and making it more difficult for the government to take action.

The bill would implement steps to change this trend, such as requiring the Department of Justice to work with the National Academy of Sciences to develop a taxonomy on cyber crime. 

It would also ensure the inclusion of cyber crime reports from officials at all levels in the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System, and require the Government Accountability Office to report on current cyber crime measures and the differences in reporting cybersecurity issues versus other criminal activities. 

The legislation is led by Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) in the House, with other sponsors including Reps. Blake Moore (R-Utah), Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).

The bill is simultaneously being introduced in the Senate by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), with Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) co-sponsoring. 

“Cybercrime is increasingly putting American families, businesses, and government agencies at serious risk,” Spanberger said in a statement Thursday. “But for too long, our government has been woefully unprepared for the next generation of cyberattacks. Complacency with respect to our cybercrime classification system could jeopardize public safety, our ability to compete in the global economy, and even our national security.”

“Our nation’s crime classification system is out-of-date — and the Better Cybercrime Metrics Act takes commonsense steps to improve our cybercrime metrics, anticipate future trends, and make sure law enforcement agencies have the tools and resources they need,” she added. 

The bill was introduced in the wake of multiple major cybersecurity incidents in recent months, including the discovery of the SolarWinds hack in December that involved Russian government-linked hackers accessing systems of nine federal agencies and 100 private sector groups.

More recently, ransomware attacks on Colonial Pipeline and on meat producer JBS USA have highlighted vulnerabilities in critical supply chains, particularly following a year in which cyber criminals took advantage of vulnerable organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Garbarino, the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee’s cybersecurity subcommittee, said in a statement, “Cybercrime is rampant, but despite the rising number of attacks affecting Americans, we do not have a clear picture of the full scope of the problem,” and that “we have to use every tool at our disposal” to address the attacks. 

Jackson Lee, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, said Thursday that “in order to do more to counter cyber threats, we need better data concerning the incidence of these types of crimes.”

“America’s public safety and cyber superiority is on the line, and now is the time to act,” Moore said in a separate statement. 

Cybersecurity has been an issue the Biden administration has been forced to prioritize from the first day President Biden took office due to the escalating incidents. The administration has taken a number of steps to address cyber threats, including Biden signing an executive order in May to strengthen the federal government’s cybersecurity and imposing sanctions on Russia for its involvement in the SolarWinds hack. 

Earlier this week, National Cyber Director Chris Inglis endorsed the idea of establishing a Bureau of Cyber Statistics at the Department of Homeland Security to collect, analyze, and publish information on cyber incidents provided by groups involved in cybersecurity. 

The new bill is not related to this effort, but Spanberger emphasized Thursday the need to take action in this space. 

“I am proud to lead the introduction of this bipartisan, bicameral legislation — because this bill would help prevent more Americans from becoming targets and victims online,” Spanberger said.

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