US senators introduce legislation to improve election security, help feds tackle botnets
US senators introduced new legislation on Tuesday to help improve the country's election infrastructure and boost their ability to tackle cyberattacks. Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut unveiled two bipartisan bills designed to help the government improve their cybersecurity measures and arm prosecutors with new tools to combat cybercrime.
The "International Cybercrime Prevention Act" led by Senator Graham is designed to give federal prosecutors the ability to shut down botnets - networks of compromised computers leveraged by foreign threat actors to spread disinformation and wreak havoc through massive cyberattacks. It would also prohibit people from selling access to botnets to carry out cyberattacks and create a new criminal violation for individuals knowing targeting critical infrastructure such as power plants, dams, hospitals and election infrastructure.
The second bill introduced by Senator Blumenthal named the "Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act" would allow the Department of Justice to pursue federal charges against anyone for hacking any voting system used in federal elections.
“The disclosure of renewed cyber attacks against Congress and disinformation campaigns demonstrates that Russia is undeterred in its ambition to undermine America’s democracy and critical infrastructure—and that we are woefully unprepared to prevent or stop them," Blumenthal said in a statement.
"The Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act and the International Cybercrime Prevention Act will better equip the Department of Justice to fight back against hackers and foreign governments that intend to interfere with our democracy and disrupt our economy. With the midterm elections in less than 100 days, Congress cannot afford to wait."
The introduction of the bills also come amid growing concerns and scrutiny into the security of the November midterm elections. Officials and experts have warned that Russia could be conspiring to influence the upcoming elections and candidates running for office as they previously did so in the 2016 presidential election.
“Russian interference in the 2016 election exposed just a small piece of our adversaries’ cyber capabilities,” Graham said. “Seeking to undermine American democracy and our standing on the world stage, hostile nations like Russia, Iran, China, and North Korea work every day to develop new cyber weapons to deploy against the United States.
"Both pieces of legislation provide the Department of Justice urgently needed tools to shut down the digital infrastructure used by cybercriminals and to prosecute those who hack our critical infrastructure."