June 5, 2015 / 9:33 PM / 4 years ago

U.S. lawmakers urge action on cyber bill after latest hacking

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers urged Congress on Friday to pass legislation permitting sharing of cyber threat information between companies and the government, after one of the largest known cyber attacks on federal networks.

“It’s impossible to overstate this threat ... We need to act quickly,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, a co-sponsor of the “Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act” and the leading Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

In April, the House passed a similar bill, called the “Protecting Cyber Networks Act.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee approved its version of the legislation 14-1 in March, but it has not yet been taken up on the Senate floor. Both chambers will ultimately have to agree on the same version before the legislation can pass Congress.

Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said McConnell had not announced a schedule beyond the defense bill, which is currently on the floor, but said the senator regularly cited the cyber bill as an upcoming activity.

The massive breach of computer systems of the Office of Personnel Management was disclosed on Thursday by the Obama administration, which said records of up to 4 million current and former federal employees may have been compromised.

Homeland Security Chairman Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican, said he was disturbed that there had been cyber attacks at the office.

“OPM says it has undertaken an aggressive effort to update its cybersecurity posture,” Johnson said in a statement. “Plainly, it must do a better job, especially given the sensitive nature of the information it holds.”

House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a Republican, said the Senate “urgently” needed to pass cybersecurity legislation after the House acted in April.

“The number of cyberattacks on our nation is increasing at a rapid and incredibly concerning pace ... the Senate needs to move quickly,” Representative Lynn Westmoreland said in a joint statement with Nunes.

Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh

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