Senators launch bipartisan cybersecurity caucus

congressAt an American Enterprise Institute event today on Capitol Hill, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) announced the creation of the ‘Senate Cybersecurity Caucus’ to provide a platform for Senators and their staffs to stay informed on major policy issues and developments in cybersecurity.

“Cybersecurity is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation, and both the private and the public sector need to be better prepared to address the escalating threat from cyberattacks. So far this Congress, nine Senate committees have held hearings on this issue, focusing on aspects as diverse as protecting taxpayer information from cyber theft, the development of deterrent technologies targeted at foreign actors, and the need to secure our infrastructure against intrusion.  These hearings provide useful insight into the many aspects of our cyber vulnerability,”said Sen. Warner, a former technology executive and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “However, the attack surface is rapidly expanding, and the cyber threat is a systemic one. We are launching the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus as a platform to engage in holistic discussions about cybersecurity across Committee jurisdictions, and to keep Senators and their staffs up-to-date on new cyber developments.”

“As the cyber threat continues to evolve, so must our strategy,” said Sen. Gardner. “ Rifle shots targeting a massive, growing problem have fallen well-short of sufficient. We need a grand strategy to combat positively identified bad actors, and that requires a broad policy response that is adaptable to technological developments and the ever-changing cyber field. The goal of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus is to jumpstart discussions about how to best address the cybersecurity challenges we face, and I’m hopeful my colleagues will recognize this caucus’ role in strengthening our national security and join us. We need a whole of government approach to cyber, and this effort will start focusing cyber policy on the full spectrum of threats and opportunities.”

The caucus will focus on various aspects of the cybersecurity problem, including impacts on national security, the economy, and digital security.  The caucus will provide unique opportunities to inform Senators on the major cyber policy issues facing Congress, introduce Senators and their staff to leading cybersecurity experts, and promote bipartisan and cross-jurisdictional discussions on this important issue.

Cyberattacks account for up to $120 billion in economic and intellectual property loss annually in the United States and cost the average American firm more than $15 million per year, according to experts. Additionally, consumer concerns about cybersecurity are increasingly impacting the growth of the digital economy. Survey research from NTIA just last month indicated that 45% of households reported that concerns about online privacy and security stopped them from conducting financial transactions, engaging in e-commerce, or posting on social networks.

An early investor in the cellular telephone business, Sen. Warner spent 20 years in the technology industry before entering public office. In the Senate, Warner has been a leader on issues relating to technology and cybersecurity. In the aftermath of the Target breach that exposed the debit and credit card information of 40 million customers, Sen. Warner chaired the first congressional hearing in February 2014 on protecting consumer data from the threat posed by hackers targeting retailers’ online systems.

Last year, he teamed up with Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX) and Sen. Gardner on a bipartisan proposal to establish an independent National Commission on Security and Technology Challenges to bring together all stakeholders, including tech leaders, law enforcement, the intelligence community, privacy and civil liberties advocates, computer science researchers, and global commerce leaders, to make recommendations for maintaining privacy and digital security while also finding ways to keep criminals and terrorists from exploiting these technologies to escape justice.

As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy,  Sen. Gardner has been a leader on cybersecurity issues. Gardner’s North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act, which was signed into law by President Obama,requires the President to submit a strategy to counter North Korean cyber-related attacks and impose U.S. sanctions on cybercriminals.

Gardner’s bill is the first piece of legislation approved by Congress to impose mandatory sanctions on cybercriminals, which is a drastic new direction away from the current discretionary sanctions. Gardner also authored an amendment to the U.S. Department of State Authorization Act of 2017 that requires the State Department to regularly report on the U.S.-China cyber agreement.

Additionally, Gardner recently introduced an amendment to protect the Department of Defense (DoD) against cyber threats, and chaired a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing examining China’s activity in cyberspace.