Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., introduced two pieces of legislation on Tuesday designed to improve cybercrime prevention and strengthen U.S. election infrastructure.

“Seeking to undermine American democracy and our standing on the world stage, hostile nations like Russia, Iran, China, and North Korea work every day to develop new cyber weapons to deploy against the United States,” said Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism. “Both pieces of legislation provide the Department of Justice urgently needed tools to shut down the digital infrastructure used by cybercriminals and to prosecute those who hack our critical infrastructure. Congress should act quickly to pass these bills to help protect us from Russian interference in the 2018 election, and from the broad array of other state-enabled cyber threats.”

The International Cybercrime Prevention Act would equip Federal prosecutors with new tools to combat cybercrime, including the ability to shut down networks of compromised computers, known as botnets. In a statement, the senators said that Russians and other hostile actors use botnets to “spread disinformation and create chaos.” Additionally, the legislation would create a new criminal violation for individuals who have targeted critical infrastructure, including dams, power plants, hospitals, and election infrastructure. It would also prohibit selling access to botnets to carry out cyberattacks. In a release, the senators say the legislation aligns with recommendations in Attorney General Jeff Session’s recent Cyber Digital Task Force report.

“We face cyber threats to our elections, financial institutions, businesses and critical infrastructure, as well as to citizens’ personal information,” said Whitehouse, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism. “It’s more important than ever to help law enforcement harden our cyber defenses.”

The other bill introduced Tuesday tackles election security. The Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act would make it a Federal crime to hack any voting systems used in a Federal election. The senators said the bill provides additional clarity on how relevant Federal election laws apply to individuals with “insider access” to electronic systems, as well the contributions of security researchers to cybersecurity.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.