The U.S. House of Representatives took action to strengthen defenses against computer hackers earlier this week, passing a bill requiring the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create a comprehensive cybersecurity plan.

H.R. 3696, the National Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, would address preparation for and response to cyberattacks across all areas of government and the public sector. Presented by U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., the measure was drafted in response to the litany of high-profile data breaches over the last few years.

“Target, Niemen Marcus and now White Lodging, which manages hotel franchises for chains like Hilton and Marriot — it seems that almost every day we hear news of more American consumers victimized by cyberattack,” Meehan said in a statement.

“It’s only a matter of time before our power grids or financial networks are the latest victims of hackers,” he added.

H.R. 3696 passed by a voice vote and now heads to the U.S. Senate. If it gets through the Senate, the bill would codify many of the cybersecurity response plans outlined last year by President Barack Obama, according to Jonathan Tamari of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In addition, the measure requires the DHS to share data about cyber-threats across the public- and private-sectors.

“Americans could be greatly harmed by a cyber-assault on our nation’s power supply, water or banking systems,” McCaul said in a statement. “H.R. 3696 recognizes this growing threat and strengthens the capabilities of DHS – a civilian, transparent agency – to protect critical infrastructure, while prohibiting new regulations.”

-- Brian Heaton