Intelligence and defense policy legislation passed last week shows that the United States government is increasingly concerned about cyberattacks, particularly attacks coming from Russia.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which the House of Representatives passed on Friday, specifies the budget and expenditures of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).
The list of amendments for the fiscal year 2018 includes several issues related to cyber capabilities. One of the adopted amendments requires the DoD to update its cyber strategy, to require the president to create a strategy for using offensive cyber capabilities, and providing technical assistance to NATO members.
Other amendments include improvements to training, recruitment and retention of cyber personnel; the possibility to request additional resources if the House of Representatives is the victim of a cyberattack; and banning the DoD from working with telecoms firms that were “complicit” with cyberattacks attributed to North Korea.
Another amendment requires the DoD to help Ukraine improve its cyber security capabilities. This comes after the country’s energy sector was hit two times by damaging cyberattacks believed to have been sponsored by the Russian government.
Russia is the focus of several amendments, including the cyberattacks believed to have been launched by state-sponsored actors and the country’s propaganda and disinformation initiatives. The Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence will be required to provide Congress a report on all attempts to hack DoD systems in the past two years by threat groups linked to Russia.
The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, which the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence unanimously advanced on Thursday, also references Russia.
The Intelligence Authorization Act, which authorizes funding for the U.S. intelligence community, requires the Director of National Intelligence to submit a report assessing the most significant Russian influence campaigns aimed at foreign elections.
Without specifically naming Russia, the bill also requires an unclassified advisory report on foreign counterintelligence and cybersecurity threats to federal election campaigns. This comes after the U.S. officially accused Russia of attempting to interfere with last year’s presidential election.
There have been several incidents recently involving the leakage of classified information from the intelligence community, including the Vault7 files by WikiLeaks. An amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act requires officials to submit semiannual reports on investigations into unauthorized public disclosures of classified information.
Another hot topic covered by the Intelligence Authorization Act is related to the retention of vulnerabilities. This has been a highly debated subject, particularly after the recent WannaCry ransomware attacks, which leveraged an exploit developed by the NSA. Following the attacks, a group of lawmakers introduced a new bill, the PATCH Act, whose goal is to help the government decide whether or not it should release vulnerability details to non-federal entities.