Elijah Cummings aviation covert testing bill, other legislation move through Congress

As lawmakers pay their respects to the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., legislation that he authored to improve aviation security, H.R. 3469, the Covert Testing and Risk Mitigation Improvement Act, is moving through the House.

On Tuesday, the bill, introduced by the head of the Committee on Oversight and Reform in June, was approved by the House Committee on Homeland Security.

“Today, we honored Chairman Cummings’ legacy in a small but appropriate way, by considering a bill he authored to make concrete improvements to our government,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement. “Congressman Cummings’ bill, the Covert Testing and Risk Mitigation Improvement Act, directs TSA to not only carry out and refine its covert testing programs, but also to use the information gathered to improve the agency’s security operations.  When passed, his legislation will make our skies safer.”

Cummings, often seen as a moral compass in the House, passed away October 17 due to complications from chronic health problems. The covert testing legislation requires the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to implement covert tests for multiple aviation security operations, identify vulnerabilities, sets requirements for mitigation and mandates retesting within specified guidelines.

Cummings’ legislation wasn’t the only security-focused bill to move forward on the Hill.  

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., reintroduced “The Cyber Shield Act” to create a voluntary cybersecurity certification program for Internet of Things (IoT) devices that would help consumers purchase more secure devices. “The Cyber Shield Act” will establish an advisory committee of cybersecurity experts from academia, industry, consumer advocates, government and the public to create cybersecurity benchmarks for IoT devices - such as baby monitors, home assistants, smart locks, cameras, cell phones, and laptops. IoT manufacturers can then voluntarily certify that their product meets those cybersecurity benchmarks, and display this certification to the public with a “Cyber Shield” label that will help consumers identify and purchase more secure devices for their homes. Rep. Lieu and Sen. Markey previously introduced the Cyber Shield Act in 2017.

“I’m a recovering Computer Science major so I recognize that advancements in technology have improved lives and our world,” Rep. Ted Lieu said in a statement. “That said, we can’t ignore data security while we encourage technological advancement in every sector of our lives.

Lieu called the legislation a “win-win for consumers and for businesses who prioritize the privacy and security of their customers.”

Contending “the IoT will also stand for the Internet of Threats until we put in place appropriate cybersecurity safeguards,” Markey warned, “with more than 60 billion IoT devices projected to be in our pockets and homes by 2025, cybersecurity continues to pose a direct threat to economic prosperity, privacy, and our nation’s security.”

Lieu, one of the few members of Congress with a computer science degree, has expressed frustration that the Senate isn’t pushing through cybersecurity related legislation sent over by the House.

Thompson this week introduced H.R.  4782, the “National Commission on Online Platforms and Homeland Security Act” to address the proliferation of terrorist content on social media and other online platforms. Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, and Rep. Ro Khanna’s, D-Calif., unveiled the Advancing Cybersecurity Diagnostics and Mitigation Act (H.R. 4237), meant to modernize the Continuous Diagnostics Mitigation Program at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

And the House passed H.R. 4617, the Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy (SHIELD) Act, intended to close loopholes in foreign spending in U.S. elections as well as improve disclosure and transparency rules. The bill had previously gotten the thumbs up from the Committee on House Administration.

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