Last updated at Tue, 31 Aug 2021 20:57:55 GMT

On August 10, 2021, the U.S. Senate passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (H.R.3684). The bill comes in at 2,700+ pages, provides for $1.2T in spending, and includes several cybersecurity items. We expect this legislation to become law around late September and do not expect significant changes to the content. This post provides highlights on cybersecurity from the legislation.

(Check out our joint letter calling for cybersecurity in infrastructure legislation here.)

Cybersecurity is a priority — that’s progress

Cybersecurity is essential to ensure modern infrastructure is safe, and Rapid7 commends Congress and the Administration for including cybersecurity in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Rapid7 led industry calls to include cybersecurity in the bill, and we are encouraged that several priorities identified by industry are reflected in the text, such as cybersecurity-specific funding for state and local governments and the electrical grid.

On the other hand, cybersecurity will be competing with natural disasters and extreme weather for funding in many (not all) grants created under the bill. In addition, not all critical infrastructure sectors receive cybersecurity resources through the legislation, with healthcare being a notable exclusion. Congress should address these gaps in the upcoming budget reconciliation package.

What’s in the bill for infrastructure cybersecurity

Below is a brief-ish summary of cybersecurity-related items in the bill. The infrastructure sectors with the most allocations appear to be energy, water, transportation, and state and local governments. Many of these funding opportunities take the form of federal grants for infrastructure resilience, which includes cybersecurity as well as natural hazards. Other funds are dedicated solely to cybersecurity.

Please note that this list aims to include major infrastructure cybersecurity funding items, but is not comprehensive. (For example, the bill also provides funding for the National Cyber Director.) Citations to the Senate-passed legislation are included.

  1. State and local governments: $1B over 4 years for the State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial (SLTT) Grant Program. This new grant program will help SLTT governments to develop or implement cybersecurity plans. FEMA will administer the program. This is also known as The State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement Act. [Sec. 70611]

  2. Energy: $250M over five years for the Rural and Municipal Utility Advanced Cybersecurity Grant and Technological Assistance Program. The Department of Energy (DOE) must create a new program to provide grants and technical assistance to improve electric utilities’ ability to detect, respond to, and recover from cybersecurity threats. [Sec. 40124]

  3. Energy: Enhanced grid security. The DOE must create a program to develop advanced cybersecurity applications and technologies for the energy sector, among other things. Over a period of five years, this section authorizes $250M for the Cybersecurity for the Energy Sector RD&D program, $50M for the Energy Sector Operational Support for Cyberresilience Program, and $50M for Modeling and Assessing Energy Infrastructure Risk. [Sec. 40125]

  4. Energy: State energy security plans. This creates federal financial and technical assistance for states to develop or implement an energy security plan that secures state energy infrastructure against cybersecurity threats, among other things. [Sec. 40108]

  5. Water: $250M over 5 years for the Midsize and Large Drinking Water System Infrastructure Resilience and Sustainability Program. This creates a new grant program to assist midsize and large drinking water systems with increasing resilience to cybersecurity vulnerabilities, as well as natural hazards. [Sec. 50107]

  6. Water: $175M over five years for technical assistance and grants for emergencies affecting public water systems. This extends an expired fund to help mitigate threats and emergencies to drinking water. This includes, among other things, emergency situations caused by a cybersecurity incident. [Sec. 50101]

  7. Water: $25M over five years for the Clean Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Program. This creates a new program providing grants to owners/operators of publicly owned treatment works to increase the resiliency of water systems against cybersecurity vulnerabilities, as well as natural hazards. [Sec. 50205]

  8. Transportation: Cybersecurity eligible for National Highway Performance Program (NHPP). This expands on the existing NHPP grant program to allow states to use funds for resiliency of the National Highway System. "Resiliency" includes cybersecurity, as well as natural hazards. [Sec. 11105]

  9. Transportation: Cybersecurity eligible for Surface Transportation Block Grant Program. This expands the existing grant program to allow funding measures to protect transportation facilities from cybersecurity threats, among other things. [Sec. 11109]

  10. General: $100M over five years for the Cyber Response and Recovery Fund. This creates a fund for CISA to provide direct support to public or private entities that respond and recover from cyberattacks and breaches designated as a “significant incident.” The support can include technical assistance and response activities, such as vulnerability assessment, threat detection, network protection, and more. The program ends in 2028. [Sec. 70602, Div. J]

Other sectors next?

These cybersecurity items are significant down payments to safeguard the nation’s investment in infrastructure modernization. Combined with the recent Executive Order and memorandum on industrial control systems security, the Biden Administration is demonstrating that cybersecurity is a high priority.

However, more work must be done to address cybersecurity weaknesses in critical infrastructure. While the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides cybersecurity resources for some sectors, most of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors are excluded. Healthcare is an especially notable example, as the sector faces a serious ransomware problem in the middle of a deadly pandemic.

Congress is now preparing a larger budget reconciliation bill, to be advanced at roughly the same time as the infrastructure legislation. We encourage Congress and the Administration to take this opportunity to boost cybersecurity for other sectors, especially healthcare. As with the infrastructure bill, we suggest providing grants dedicated to cybersecurity, and requiring that grant funds be used to adopt or implement standards-based security safeguards and risk management practices.

Congress' activity during the COVID-19 crisis continues to be punctuated by large, ambitious bills. To secure the modern economy and essential services, we hope the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act sets a precedent that sound cybersecurity policies will be integrated into transformative legislation to come.