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Week ahead: Senators make new push to improve election cybersecurity

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Week ahead: Senators make new push to improve election cybersecurity

The coming week could bring movement on legislation aimed at securing U.S. voting infrastructure from cyber threats.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that she and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) are planning to introduce an amendment to a bill reauthorizing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that would help states modernize their election systems.

Harris and Lankford are both sponsors of the Secure Elections Act, a bill they introduced in December that would set up a grant program for states to replace outdated paperless voting machines and take other steps to bolster cybersecurity.

Harris said at a Senate Homeland Security Committee meeting that the amendment will implement “bipartisan election security measures to modernize election cybersecurity across America and protect against foreign interference on future elections.”

The lawmakers are hoping to attach the amendment to legislation that would reauthorize Homeland Security for the first time since it was created in the early 2000s. In July, the House passed its version of the bill, which would implement a number of reforms to Homeland Security’s operations.

Leaders of the Senate Homeland Security Committee are currently working on the upper chamber’s version of the bill. The panel is expected to consider the legislation as soon as the coming week.

The left-leaning Center for American Progress on Thursday issued a memo to reporters urging Congress to pass election security funding as part of the omnibus appropriations bill lawmakers will take up later this month ahead of a March 23 deadline.

Meanwhile, expect speculation over where special counsel Robert Mueller ‘s investigation into Russian election interference is going next.

NBC News reported Thursday that the special counsel is preparing charges against the Russians suspected of being behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the email account of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

Mueller’s investigation has picked up steam in recent weeks with his indictment of 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian groups in an alleged effort to meddle in the election through social media and other tactics. Mueller also cut a recent plea deal with former Trump campaign aide Richard Gates.

Gates’s cooperation in the probe is expected to put pressure on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort .

The Senate Judiciary Committee may also soon release a tranche of transcripts related to the panel’s interviews with witnesses of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting during which Manafort, Jared Kushner , and Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer after being offered damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

The comings days are also poised to offer a flurry of cyber-related activity in the upper chamber.

Lawmakers could soon vote on the nomination of Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, President Trump ‘s choice to replace Adm. Mike Rogers at the helm the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command. Nakasone appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee for his confirmation hearing on Thursday, during which he acknowledged that the U.S. has fallen short on deterring adversaries in cyberspace.

It is unclear when the Senate panel plans to vote on his nomination.

On Tuesday, the Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on worldwide threats featuring testimony from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Meanwhile, the House panel with oversight of Homeland Security will meet Wednesday to focus on the department’s effort to build its cybersecurity workforce. The hearing will specifically focus on a recent Government Accountability Office report that identified an “urgent” need for Homeland Security to better identify gaps in its cyber workforce.

And expect scrutiny from lawmakers over the massive data breach at Equifax last year. The credit reporting firm on Thursday raised the number of breach victims by 2.4 million.

 

In case you missed them, here are some of our recent stories:

Security firm says Sofacy behind attacks on diplomats in North America, Europe

Cyber chief says he hasn’t received orders from Trump to disrupt Russian cyberattacks targeting elections

Watchdog: Former top VA aide’s email was not hacked

IBM urges lawmakers to crack down on internet platforms

Equifax says consumer bureau still probing hack despite report it eased off

Iranian hacking group appears to expand international operations

DHS: ‘No intelligence’ Russia compromised seven states ahead of 2016 election

White House issues guidance to agencies on IT modernization

Dems press Trump on response to Russian cyber threat

State Dept. launches $40M offensive against foreign propaganda

PayPal, FTC reach settlement over Venmo deception charges

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