Last updated at Thu, 30 Nov 2023 19:04:02 GMT

The US Congress is poised to pass the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act of 2022. Once signed by the President, it will become law. The law will require critical infrastructure owners and operators to report cyber incidents and ransomware payments. The legislation was developed in the wake of the SolarWinds supply chain attack and recently gained additional momentum from the Russia-Ukraine conflict. This post will walk through highlights from the law.

Rapid7 supports efforts to increase transparency and information sharing in order to strengthen awareness of the cybersecurity threat landscape and prepare for cyberattacks. We applaud passage of the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act.

What’s this law about?

The Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act will require critical infrastructure owners and operators — such as water and energy utilities, health care organizations, some IT providers, etc. — to submit reports to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) for cybersecurity incidents and ransomware payments. The law will provide liability protections for submitting reports to encourage compliance, but noncompliance can result in a civil lawsuit. The law will also require the government to analyze, anonymize, and share information from the reports to provide agencies, Congress, companies, and the public with a better view of the cyber threat landscape.

An important note about the timeline: The requirements do not take effect until CISA issues a clarifying regulation. The law will require CISA to issue this regulation within 42 months (though CISA may take less time), so the requirements may not be imminent. In the meantime, the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act provides information on what CISA’s future rule must address.

We detail these items from the law below.

Requiring reporting of cyber incidents and ransom payments

  • Report requirement. Critical infrastructure owners and operators must report substantial cybersecurity incidents to CISA, as well as any ransom payments. (However, as described below, this requirement does not come into effect until CISA issues a regulation.)
  • Type of incident. The types of cyber incidents that must be reported shall include actual breaches of sensitive information and attacks that disrupt business or operations. Mere threats or failed attacks do not need to be reported.
  • Report timeline. For a cyber incident, the report must be submitted within 72 hours after the affected organization determines the incident is substantial enough that it must be reported. For ransom payments, the report must be submitted within 24 hours after the payment is made.
  • Report contents. The reports must include a list of information, including attacker tactics and techniques. Information related to the incident must be preserved until the incident is fully resolved.
  • Enforcement. If an entity does not comply with reporting requirements, CISA may issue a subpoena to compel entities to produce the required information. The Justice Department may initiate a civil lawsuit to enforce the subpoena. Entities that do not comply with the subpoena may be found in contempt of court.

CISA rule to fill in details

  • Rule requirement. CISA is required to issue a regulation that will establish details on the reporting requirements. The reporting requirements do not take effect until this regulation is final.
  • Rule timeline. CISA has up to 42 months to finalize the rule (but the agency can choose to take less time).
  • Rule contents. The rule will establish the types of cyber incidents that must be reported, the types of critical infrastructure entities that must report, the content to be included in the reports, the mechanism for submitting the reports, and the details for preserving data related to the reports.

Protections for submitting reports

  • Not used for regulation. Reports submitted to CISA cannot be used to regulate the activities of the entity that submitted the report.
  • Privileges preserved. The covered entity may designate the reports as commercial and proprietary information. Submission of a report shall not be considered a waiver of any privilege or legal protection.
  • No liability for submitting. No court may maintain a cause of action against any person or entity on the sole basis of submitting a report in compliance with this law.
  • Cannot be used as evidence. Reports, and material used to prepare the reports, cannot be received as evidence or used in discovery proceedings in any federal or state court or regulatory body.

What the government will do with the report information

  • Authorized purposes. The federal government may use the information in the reports cybersecurity purposes, responding to safety or serious economic threats, and preventing child exploitation.
  • Rapid response. For reports on ongoing threats, CISA must rapidly disseminate cyber threat indicators and defensive measures with stakeholders.
  • Information sharing. CISA must analyze reports and share information with other federal agencies, Congress, private sector stakeholders, and the public. CISA’s information sharing must include assessment of the effectiveness of security controls, adversary tactics and techniques, and the national cyber threat landscape.

What’s Rapid7’s view of the law?

Rapid7 views the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act as a positive step. Cybersecurity is essential to ensure critical infrastructure is safe, and this law would give federal agencies more insight into attack trends, and would potentially help provide early warnings of major vulnerabilities or attacks in progress before they spread. The law carefully avoids requiring reports too early in the incident response process and provides protections to encourage companies to be open and transparent in their reports.

Still, the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act does little to ensure critical infrastructure has safeguards that prevent cyber incidents from occurring in the first place. This law is unlikely to change the fact that many critical infrastructure entities are under-resourced and, in some cases, have security maturity that is not commensurate with the risks they face. The law’s enforcement mechanism (a potential contempt of court penalty) is not especially strong, and the final reporting rules may not be implemented for another 3.5 years. Ultimately, the law’s effect may be similar to state breach notification laws, which raised awareness but did not prompt widespread adoption of security safeguards for personal information until states implemented data security laws.

So, the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act is a needed and helpful improvement — but, as always, there is more to be done.


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