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US Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Protect Oil, Gas Pipelines From Cyber Attacks

© AP Photo / Michel Spinglera French solider watches code lines on his computer at the French Defense ministry stand during an International Cybersecurity forum in Lille, northern France
a French solider watches code lines on his computer at the French Defense ministry stand during an International Cybersecurity forum in Lille, northern France - Sputnik International
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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - A group of US Senators introduced bipartisan legislation that would launch a program aimed at the protection of oil and natural gas pipelines from potential cyber attacks, the press office of Senator Martin Heinrich said in a release.

"This legislation would direct the Secretary of Energy to implement a program that helps ensure the physical security and cybersecurity of our oil and natural gas pipelines", the release said on Thursday.

The bill empowers the Energy Department to direct responses to cyber incidents while boosting efforts to develop innovative cybersecurity technologies, the release said.

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The lawmakers said under the threat of possible foreign attacks the legislation represents a crucial measure to make the system of pipelines more resilient and secure.

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On Tuesday, US National Intelligence Director Dan Coats reported to the US Senate that China and Russia pose the biggest cyber threats to the United States. Coats also said Russia had developed the capabilities to shut down US power and energy companies.

Senator Amy Klobuchar and other lawmakers have said in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency that the recent US government shutdown took a toll on government cybersecurity and gave criminals the chance to carry out attacks against the United States.

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In particular, the letter explained that during the shutdown, the digital security certificates for many government websites, including those operated by the US Department of Justice and NASA, expired.

The security certificates are necessary to protect online communications from foreign adversaries and cybercriminals. Furloughed government employees responsible for the renewal of expired certificates were not able to achieve this task due to the shutdown.

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