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A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced legislation on Wednesday to give the Department of Homeland Security more authority to protect government Internet addresses. The goal is to prevent more cyberattacks like recent massive breaches at the government's hiring office.
Hacks targeting the Office of Personnel Management put the personal data of some 22 million Americans at risk and prompted the resignation of OPM chief Katherine Archuleta earlier this month. The cyberattacks prompted calls in Congress for huge improvements in monitoring and protection of government systems.
"This cyberattack points to a broader problem," said Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of the bill's lead sponsors. Among other things, the legislation would give DHS the authority to monitor all federal agencies in the "dot-gov" Internet domain, and operate defensive countermeasures. Currently, each agency monitors its own networks and then requests help from the DHS if it feels it needs it. The measure also would direct the DHS to conduct risk assessments of any network within the government domain.
The bill’s other sponsors include Republican Sens. Dan Coats and Kelly Ayotte and Democratic Sens. Mark Warner, Barbara Mikulski and Claire McCaskill. Warner said the intention was for the DHS to protect "dot-gov" Web addresses the way the National Security Agency protects "dot-mil" military addresses.
The legislation could be voted on as early as the first week in August. It was introduced on the same day that DHS announced a major upgrade to its cyber crimes center.