Senators Peters and Braun Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Federal Cybersecurity Training
A new bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Mike Braun (R-IN) aims to enhance federal cybersecurity training and better prepare federal employees to address significant cybersecurity threats. The bill focuses on bolstering the President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition, a national event designed to identify and train top cybersecurity talent within the federal workforce. This legislation seeks to expand the competition to include operational technology (OT) and industrial control systems (ICS).
OT and ICS systems are essential components that manage and regulate industrial operations, yet they are often overlooked within the realm of cybersecurity, despite their vital role in supporting major industries, utilities, and critical infrastructure networks.
Senator Peters commented on the importance of equipping the workforce to repel cybersecurity threats, particularly in the face of ongoing testing from foreign adversaries. He highlighted the critical need for a well-prepared and well-equipped workforce to defend against cyber threats.
Echoing Senator Peters’ sentiments, Senator Braun emphasized the United States’ role in driving cyber security innovation and the significance of enhancing national cybersecurity training competitions to protect American technology from cyber-attacks around the world.
The President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition, established in 2019, is a vital initiative to train, recognize, and reward top cybersecurity talent within the federal workforce. Led and hosted by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the competition aligns with CISA’s mission to expand the size and capabilities of the U.S. cyber workforce.
The Industrial Control Systems Cybersecurity Competition Act, as proposed in the bipartisan bill, aims to broaden the scope of the President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition. Notably, it includes testing relevant to cybersecurity for operational technology and industrial control systems, ensuring that federal cybersecurity professionals can effectively operate and support critical infrastructure sectors.
This strategic expansion of the competition is particularly significant given the reliance of major industries and utility companies on OT and ICS systems to perform vital functions such as power distribution, water pumping, and vehicle assembly. Water utility companies, in particular, have been targeted by cyber-attacks. In November 2023, at least 10 water utility companies across the U.S. were hacked by an Iran-backed group, resulting in the remote shutdown of devices that monitor and regulate water pressure at pumping stations.
By adapting the President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition to include OT and industrial control systems, the proposed legislation works to safeguard critical infrastructure from evolving cyber threats, and ensure that federal cybersecurity professionals have the necessary skills and expertise to defend against attacks on these essential systems.
In summary, the bipartisan effort led by Senators Peters and Braun reflects a proactive approach to addressing cybersecurity challenges and enhancing the nation’s cyber defenses. This legislation underscores the importance of equipping federal employees with the requisite skills and knowledge to effectively mitigate cybersecurity threats, safeguard critical infrastructure, and protect essential industrial systems from malicious attacks. As the cyber landscape continues to evolve, this bill represents a crucial step towards bolstering the nation’s cybersecurity preparedness and resilience in an increasingly digital and interconnected world.