March 30, 2022 By Jonathan Reed 2 min read

Federal agencies and critical infrastructure owners and operators may need to change how they respond to cyber attacks. The U.S. Congress passed new legislation mandating they report attacks within 72 hours. In addition, it requires them to report ransomware payments within 24 hours.

Provision impacts 16 critical infrastructure sectors

This new federal legislation was also influenced by the ongoing war in Ukraine. The Strengthening American Cybersecurity Act was first approved by the Senate in early March. Later, house lawmakers packaged the reporting clause into a larger omnibus spending bill. The Senate also passed this by a large margin earlier this month. The new bill now awaits President Joe Biden’s signature for approval.

The legislation targets organizations across 16 federally designated critical infrastructure sectors, including energy, financial, manufacturing and health care services. The larger omnibus bill includes some $14 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine in its defense against Russia, with lawmakers often citing the rise of cyber threats in the conflict.

The provision includes further assistance for the departments of Defense, State, Justice, Treasury, Commerce and others. They will receive technological and continuity-of-government aid, which includes IT infrastructure and cybersecurity services.

Bipartisan support during Ukraine conflict

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), chairman and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, authored the bipartisan mandate.

In a statement, Senator Peters said, “Critical infrastructure operators defend against malicious hackers every day, and right now, these threats are even more pronounced due to possible cyber attacks from the Russian government in retaliation for our support of Ukraine. It’s clear we must take bold action to improve our online defenses. This provision will create the first holistic requirement for critical infrastructure operators to report cyber incidents so the federal government can warn others of the threat, prepare for widespread impacts and help get our nation’s most essential systems back online so they can continue providing invaluable services to the American people.”

If signed by President Biden, the legislation would amend federal government cybersecurity laws to strengthen teamwork between federal agencies, require the federal government to adopt a risk-based approach to cybersecurity and require civilian agencies to report all cyberattacks to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within strict time limits. It would require reporting of cyber incidents to be completed within 72 hours and ransomware payments within 24 hours.

The provision also gives CISA the authority to subpoena entities that fail to report cyber attacks or the payment of ransomware. Meanwhile, it will oblige CISA to sponsor a program to alert agencies of exploitable vulnerabilities connected with ransomware. CISA Director Jen Easterly will establish a joint ransomware task force to organize the federal efforts.

Cybersecurity game changer

Commenting on the passage of the mandate, Easterly took to Twitter to say, “Thrilled to see that the cyber incident reporting legislation has passed! This bill is a game-changer & a critical step forward for our Nation’s cybersecurity. As the nation’s cyber defense agency, it will help @CISAgov better protect our networks & critical infrastructure.”

Easterly also commented that CISA will use incident reporting to render assistance to victims suffering attacks, analyze reporting to spot trends across sectors and quickly share information with network defenders to warn potential victims and help prevent further attacks.

More from News

What is the Open-Source Software Security Initiative (OS3I)?

3 min read - The Open-Source Software Security Initiative (OS3I) recently released Securing the Open-Source Software Ecosystem report, which details the members’ current priorities and recommended cybersecurity solutions. The accompanying fact sheet also provides the highlights of the report. The OS3I includes both federal departments and agencies working together to deliver policy solutions to secure and defend the ecosystem. The new initiative is part of the overall National Cybersecurity Strategy. After the Log4Shell vulnerability in 2021, the Biden-Harris administration committed to improving the security…

Europe’s Cyber Resilience Act: Redefining open source

3 min read - Amid an increasingly complex threat landscape, we find ourselves at a crossroads where law, technology and community converge. As such, cyber resilience is more crucial than ever. At its heart, cyber resilience means maintaining a robust security posture despite adverse cyber events and being able to anticipate, withstand, recover from and adapt to such incidents. While new data privacy and protection regulations like GDPR, HIPAA and CCPA are being introduced more frequently than ever, did you know that there is new…

Feds release urgent guidance for U.S. water sector

3 min read - The water and wastewater sector (WWS) faces cybersecurity challenges that leave it wide open to attacks. In response, the CISA, EPA and FBI recently released joint guidance to the sector, citing variable cyber maturity levels and potential cybersecurity solutions. The new Incident Response Guide (IRG) provides the water sector with information about the federal roles, resources and responsibilities for each stage of the cyber incident response lifecycle. Sector owners and operators can use this information to augment their incident response…

Topic updates

Get email updates and stay ahead of the latest threats to the security landscape, thought leadership and research.
Subscribe today