From The Hill:

A Senate committee on Wednesday approved a cybersecurity bill that would give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) considerable powers to defend government networks from hackers.

Since the catastrophic data breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), policymakers have been scrambling to shore up network defenses.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) vowed that the measure approved Wednesday, the Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act, would help.

“With this act in place, it will become far more difficult for our adversaries to steal our private data and to penetrate government networks,” he said.

The bill — introduced Monday with the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Tom Carper (Del.) — would require all agencies to adopt several cybersecurity best practices. It would also accelerate the rollout of the government’s anti-hacking shield, dubbed “Einstein,” that detects and repels known cyber threats.

During Wednesday’s markup, Johnson’s committee adopted two amendments that essentially combined his bill with another major DHS-focused cyber bill that a bipartisan group of six senators introduced last week.

“accelerate[S] the rollout of the government’s anti-hacking shield, dubbed “Einstein,” that detects and repels known cyber threats”

That measure would reform the 12-year-old Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and formalize the DHS role in protecting government networks and websites. Known as the FISMA Reform Act, the bill would give the DHS legal authority to deploy tools that search for intrusions on government networks at any agency without a formal request.

“Right now, DHS does not have the authorities it needs to enforce cybersecurity standards, and agencies’ reliance on DHS to find and neutralize cyber threats is voluntary,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the bill’s lead Democrat, said on Wednesday. “That’s a real problem.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the lead Republican on the FISMA Reform Act, said she was “very pleased” by the merger of the bills.

“It is long overdue to make sure all of our federal networks and the information they hold are properly protected and secured,” she added.

The amendments were offered by Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), the two co-sponsors of the original bill and members of the Homeland Security panel.

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