ICYMI: Bergman Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Hold Foreign Entities Responsible for Cyberattacks

Rep. Jack Bergman (MI-01) and Rep. Joe Neguse (CO-02) reintroduced the Homeland and Cyber Threat (HACT) Act. This bill would allow Americans to make claims in federal or state courts against foreign states that conduct or engage in cyberattacks against Americans.

Cyberattacks are increasing at an alarming rate and harming our economy, infrastructure, and national security. Some of these are foreign government-sponsored, including major breaches traced to China, Russia, and Qatar in recent years.

Today, Americans have no recourse against foreign government-sponsored cyber-attacks that cause harm. The White House sanctions announced in April 2021 against the Russian government for the SolarWinds hack carried out by Russian spy agency SVR notes, “The SVR’s compromise of the SolarWinds software supply chain gave it the ability to spy on or potentially disrupt more than 16,000 computer systems worldwide. The scope of this compromise is a national security and public safety concern. Moreover, it places an undue burden on the mostly private sector victims who must bear the unusually high cost of mitigating this incident.”

The Homeland and Cyber Threat (HACT) Act removes the barrier under current law to civil lawsuits against foreign governments for state-sponsored cyber-attacks. Similar to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which was enacted in 2016 and allows civil lawsuits in cases in which a foreign government provided support for an act of terrorism that harmed U.S. persons, the HACT Act would allow lawsuits in the case of foreign government-sponsored cyber-attacks.

"The HACT Act is a bipartisan solution that provides protection for Americans and sends a clear message to bad actors like China, Qatar, and Russia that sponsoring cyber-attacks targeting U.S. citizens will no longer be excused or tolerated," said Rep Jack Bergman.

Bergman continued, “The HACT Act will serve as an important deterrent against further state-sponsored cyber-attacks targeting Americans. This legislation gives Americans the ability to hold foreign governments accountable for the damage done by cyberattacks. I’m grateful to my colleagues from both sides of the aisle for their collaborative effort as we seek to pass this commonsense legislation.”

Background on the HACT Act:
This legislation would create a new exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) specifically related to state-sponsored cyberattacks that harm Americans, which would enable American victims of such attacks to seek relief in U.S. civil court for injuries, reputational harm, and other damages.  Existing federal rules regarding procedures and requirements for proof in civil litigation would apply, with the change in the law being that foreign governments would no longer enjoy automatic immunity protections for sponsoring cyberattacks that harm Americans.

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