Data breaches at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) have prompted a major cybersecurity push in Congress, and two bills propose giving the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) new authority and tools to protect Federal systems.

A bipartisan group of Senators last week introduced the Federal Information Security Management Reform Act, which would update the original bill. Congress passed the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) in 2002.

The revision would give DHS the ability to inspect Federal computer networks when it wants. Currently, the agency needs permission to investigate or monitor another agency’s networks, Cory Bennettreported in The Hill.

Changes to Einstein
Senators also are hoping to markup a bill Wednesday, July 29, in the Senate Homeland Security Committee that would expand the use of DHS’s Einstein intrusion detection program.

Einstein came under intense scrutiny following the data breaches at OPM, but DHS remains adamant that government-wide use of the software will improve cybersecurity.

Einstein 1 observes and records basic information about activity entering and exiting an agency network. Einstein 2 detects known, prohibited adversaries that have entered or exited agency networks and provides alerts. Einstein 3 can identify and block known malicious traffic, but it only protects about 45 percent of the Federal civilian government, said DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Johnson told the House Judiciary Committee that DHS is committed to making Einstein available to all agencies by the end of the year. The new bill, called the Einstein Act, would require Einstein to cover all Federal systems and provide oversight to keep it on schedule and under budget, Bennett reports.

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson and ranking member Tom Carper are pushing the bill to expand Einstein.

Silver Bullet?
Einstein may not represent a silver bullet, but it will serve as “a platform for future technologies and capabilities to do more,” Johnson said. “This includes technology that will automatically identify suspicious Internet traffic for further inspection, even if, as was the case with the OPM breach, we did not already know about the particular cybersecurity threat.”

Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) also will help complement Einstein and improve Federal cybersecurity, he said. The first phase of CDM is in use at eight Federal agencies, covering about 50 percent of the government. By fall, 97 percent of the government will be covered by CDM, Bennett reports.

Johnson told the committee he has requested authorization from Congress to reprogram funding to speed up the second phase of CDM, according to Bennett.

Will all these efforts stop another attack? Time will tell.

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MeriTalk Staff