A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday introduced a bill that would authorize the new Office of the National Cyber Director (NCD) to obtain employees from various federal agencies on a non-reimbursable basis to fully staff the office.
Chris Inglis is the first NCD, having been confirmed by Congress in June. The NCD position needs to bring coherence to federal cybersecurity efforts, Inglis said earlier this year before he was nominated for the position.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), one of the authors of the bill and the ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement that getting the NCD office fully staffed quickly is important given the nation’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks.
“National Cyber Director Inglis is tasked with coordinating and implementation of national cyber policy and strategy and it is crucial that he be able to bring on staff. This bipartisan legislation will ensure the NCD can quickly bring on experts to develop national cyber policies that best protect federal networks, data, and critical infrastructure.”
Other sponsors of the legislation include Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Angus King (I-Maine), co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission that recommended Congress establish the NCD and associated support office, Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), a member of the committee, and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
King said in a statement that “Any good field general needs troops and a team to execute the mission, and as we confront global cyberthreats and ransomware criminals, we must give Chris Inglis the tools and capability to protect our society, economy and nation from those seeking to do us harm.”
Separately, Peters on Tuesday announced that he is investigating the role of cryptocurrencies in aiding cyber criminals and ransomware attacks on organizations and critical infrastructures. The concern with virtual currencies is that their use to pay ransoms makes it exceedingly difficult for law enforcement authorities to follow the payment trail and bring criminals to justice.
“The increased use of cryptocurrencies as the preferred method of payment in ransomware attacks shows that cybercriminals believe they can commit attacks without being held accountable,” Peters said in a statement. He added that the “investigation will help us better understand how cryptocurrency can embolden cybercriminals, and identify possible policy changes that would help disrupt the incentive cryptocurrencies provide for criminal organizations and foreign adversaries to target critical public and private sector systems.”
Peters’ investigation is just beginning and his staff has begun talking to experts to learn more about the issues. Peters will also likely hold hearings as part of the investigation.