U.S. Senate Aims to Add Cyber Amendments to Defense Bill

Hundreds of amendments are queued up for possible addition to the vast annual defense policy bill. Among those that senators are considering include regulations that address artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and proposals to test election systems for vulnerabilities. Adding cyber measures to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has become a tradition in recent years because it is “must-pass” legislation and renewed annually. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) hopes to have the Senate’s version of the bill prior to the August recess that commences at the end of this week.

Some of the sweeping cyber-related proposals emphasized on the Senate side are being “transformed wholesale into amendments,” reports The Washington Post, adding that “two such amendments are authorization measures for other parts of the federal government: the intelligence authorization bill and the State Department authorization bill.

Artificial intelligence is a Senate focus, with one proposed amendment ordering the National Security Agency to create a cyberthreat information sharing framework for artificial intelligence developers.

“Another would direct the Defense Department to establish a bug bounty program on AI products being used at the Pentagon,” WaPo writes, noting Senator Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) is the sponsor on both.

Several amendments address strengthened cybersecurity partnerships between the U.S. and foreign allies. There are also a host of measures that aim to study what are considered “subtopics,” ranging from nuclear security to border security cyberthreats. The former includes an amendment designed to strengthen quantum research sponsored by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire) and John Thune (R-South Dakota).

The role generative AI could pose in disrupting the 2024 U.S. presidential election is a big area of focus. An amendment put forth by Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Mark Warner (D-Virginia) “includes a provision that would direct the Election Assistance Commission to conduct penetration testing — where ethical hackers simulate cyberattacks on a system to find weaknesses — as part of the certification of voting system hardware and software,” per WaPo.

Lieutenant General Timothy Haugh, deputy commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, warned last week that a major concern of AI “is foreign use attempting to be a part of our electoral process,” Politico reports. The surging use of technologies like OpenAI’s ChatGPT poses new threats, including the spread of disinformation online.

AI Being Used for Hacking and Misinformation, Top Canadian Cyber Official Says, Reuters, 7/20/23
Senate Moves Closer to Finishing Defense Authorization Bill, The Hill, 7/26/23
Artificial Intelligence Continues to Revolutionize Cybersecurity, Forbes, 7/19/23

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