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US lawmakers introduce bill to bolster cybersecurity cooperation with Israel

Legislation would provide $30m in funding over five years to joint cybersecurity projects between Israel and US
The bill is sponsored by Senator Jacky Rosen, who serves on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (AFP)
By MEE staff in Washington

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers from both legislative chambers are introducing a bill that would provide $30m over five years for the creation of joint cybersecurity partnership programmes between Washington and Israel.

The bill comes as the Biden administration has been working against an increasing number of cyberattacks it says are stemming from Russia, including the recent hack of the information technology firm SolarWinds.

The proposed legislation aims to establish a grant programme at the Department of Homeland Security to "promote cooperative research and development between the United States and Israel on cybersecurity".

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The programme's funds would be eligible to a number of entities, including academic institutions, non-profit organisations and private companies.

The bill is sponsored by senators Jacky Rosen, Susan Collins, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Todd Young in the Senate, and congressmen Jim Langevin and Andrew Garbarino in the House.

"As cybersecurity threats continue to grow in scale, frequency, and sophistication, it's critical that we find innovative solutions to acquire new technologies," said Rosen, who serves on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, in a statement reported by Politico.

Senator Susan Collins, one of the bill's sponsors and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the recent SolarWinds compromise "demonstrated how vulnerable US networks are to cyberattacks and should serve as a wake-up call about the need to address our glaring vulnerabilities", according to the US newspaper.

Closer cooperation with Israel will "help the US develop sophisticated cybersecurity technology and thwart future attacks", she added.

US-Israel cybersecurity programmes

The proposed grant programme would receive $6m a year for five years to fund digital security research and help commercialise cyber technology.

After being introduced last week, the legislation has now been referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The creation of this bill is not new. In both 2016 and 2017, Langevin introduced the measure in the House. While the bill passed in the chamber, it did not move in the Senate.

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Rosen also introduced a similar bill in 2019. If had passed, it would have required the State Department to explore the options of creating a joint cybersecurity research centre with Israel.

Washington and Israel have signed a number of agreements over the years on the issue of cybersecurity, including in the areas of commerce, energy and defence. In 2017, the White House and the Israeli Prime Minister's office launched a joint working group on cybersecurity with the goal of locating and preventing attacks before they reach networks and critical infrastructure.

Last year, the Israeli government said that it saw the sale of its cyber-surveillance tools double over the previous year.

Outside the US, the legislation also comes amid a number of cyberattacks that Israel and Iran have blamed on each other, a recent example being the attack that shut down the Islamic Republic's Natanz nuclear facility.

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