System hacked warning alert message on screen showing cyber incident reporting

Department of Homeland Security Proposes Rule for Reporting of Cyber Incidents

On April 4, 2024, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (“CISA”) published for public comment a long-awaited proposed rule to implement the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act of 2022 (“CIRCIA”).[1] CIRCIA was signed into law on March 15, 2022 and requires covered entities to report “significant” cyber incidents within 72 hours and ransomware payments within 24 hours. Under the new law, covered entities are also subject to supplemental reporting requirements and data preservation obligations.

CISA estimates that the rule will cost the public and private sector over $2.6 billion between now and 2033, and it anticipates receiving over 200,000 reports from over 316,000 entities during that time.[2] CISA also anticipates dedicating significant resources to implementation of the rule, having submitted a budget request for $116 million in additional funding to implement the new program, which will require “major technology enhancements” and an additional 122 full-time employees.[3]

Covered entities

The proposed rule defines “covered entity” broadly to include: (1) any organization that falls within one of 16 “critical infrastructure sectors”— which cover a myriad of industries, from critical manufacturing to financial services[4] and (2) either exceeds U.S. Small Business Association size thresholds or, regardless of size, is covered by specifically enumerated criteria related to certain critical infrastructure sectors.[5]

The list of critical infrastructure sectors is broad, and simply being an “active participant” in that sector is enough.[6] For example, CISA notes that the Commercial Facilities Sector includes “a mix of entities, such as the nation’s 1.1 million malls, shopping centers, and other retail establishments; over 52,000 hotel-based properties; nearly 1,400 casinos and associated resorts; 1 million office buildings; 5.6 million multi-family rental buildings, and nearly 125,000 establishments designed for public assembly, such as stadiums, arenas, movie theaters, museums, zoos, libraries, and other performance venues”.[7]

According to CISA, advertising firms, law firms, political parties, graphic design firms, think tanks, and public interest groups might not fall within the critical infrastructure sectors.[8]

An entity satisfies the size threshold if it exceeds the U.S. Small Business Administration’s small business size standard based on either employees or annual revenue, depending on the industry.[9] For the applicable thresholds, see 13 C.F.R. pt. 121. In addition, there are specific sector-based criteria that bring certain small businesses within CIRCIA reporting requirements.[10]

Significant cyber incidents

CIRCIA limits reporting obligations to “significant” cyber incidents only.[11] The proposed rule defines a significant cyber incident as any one of the following four situations:

1.      A substantial loss of confidentiality, integrity, or availability of a covered entity’s information system or network.

2.      A serious impact on the safety and resiliency of a covered entity’s operational systems and processes.

3.      A disruption of a covered entity’s ability to engage in business or industrial operations or deliver goods or services.

4.      Unauthorized access to a covered entity’s information system or network, or any nonpublic information contained therein, that is facilitated through or caused by a compromise of a cloud service provider, managed service provider, or other third-party data hosting provider.[12]

Under these definitions, covered entities would need to consider whether a cyber incident is sufficiently serious or substantial to trigger reporting requirements. As discussed below, underreporting can subject an entity to a variety of penalties.

Information to be reported

Reports must describe the cyber incident or ransomware attack, including details such as the function of the affected networks, the tactics used to perpetrate the incident, the suspected culprit, and any mitigation efforts taken in response to the incident.[13]

Exceptions to reporting requirements

There are several exceptions to CIRCIA’s reporting requirements.

  • A covered entity does not need to report to CISA if it is already required to report substantially similar information on a substantially similar timeline to another federal agency—and that agency has an approved information- sharing agreement with CISA.[14]
  • A covered entity need not submit two separate reports if it experiences a significant cyber incident accompanied by a ransom demand. In this situation, it may submit a combined report.[15]
  • Reporting requirements don’t apply to entities or certain functions of entities that are owned, operated, or governed by multi-stakeholder organizations that develop, implement, and enforce policies concerning the Domain Name System (DNS).[16]

Reporting requirements don’t apply to federal agencies when they are already required to report an incident to CISA pursuant to the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (FISMA).[17]

Reporting timelines

Reports on significant cyber incidents are due no later than 72 hours after the entity “reasonably believes” a covered incident has occurred, and reports on ransomware payments are due no later than 24 hours after the payment has been disbursed.[18]

This strict timeline means that entities will likely be required to report on incidents that are still under active investigation, while the entity’s understanding of the incident is incomplete and evolving.

And CISA is clear that having incomplete information is not an excuse for a tardy report.[19] Rather, an entity that reasonably believes a covered incident has occurred must report it and subsequently must “promptly” file a supplemental report with any newly discovered information.[20]

Data preservation requirements

In addition to the reporting requirements, the proposed rule also creates obligations to preserve data and records for at least two years, relating to an array of technical and incident information, including: threat actor communications, indicators of compromise, network traffic, attack vector, forensic reports, forensic images, logs, and other items.[21] In considering how best to prepare for these requirements, covered entities may wish to consider the structure of their specific networks and IT systems, as well as potential data storage needs.

Legal protections for reported information

The rule contains several protections for submitting reports and responding to requests for information (RFIs) from CISA. These include:

  • Designation as commercial, financial, and proprietary information;
  • Exemption from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act;
  • Protection against waiver of privilege or other protection provided by law;
  • Ex parte communications waiver;
  • Prohibition on use of reports or RFI responses in regulatory actions;
  • Protection against future liability from submitting a report or responding to an RFI; and
  • Limits on authorized uses[22] of the information by CISA.[23]

Penalties for failing to report

If CISA believes that an entity has failed to comply with CIRCIA, it can issue a request for information and/or a subpoena and is empowered to refer non-compliance to the Attorney General for civil enforcement.[24] Non-compliant entities may also face acquisition penalties, including suspension and debarment.[25]

Comment period

Entities who believe they may face compliance obligations under CIRCIA may wish to comment on the proposed rule. CISA will accept comments on the proposed rule for 60 days after its publication—until June 3, 2024.

The final rule likely will not become effective until early 2026.


[1] Cybersecurity Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act (CIRCIA) Reporting Requirements, 89 Fed. Reg. 23644 (Apr. 4, 2024) (to be codified at 6 C.F.R. pt. 226).

[2] 89 Fed. Reg. at 23648.

[3] U.S. DEP’T OF HOMELAND SEC., FY 2025 BUDGET IN BRIEF 4, 61 (2024).

[4] The critical infrastructure sectors are named in Presidential Policy Directive 21. They are: (1) Chemical; (2) Commercial Facilities; (3) Communications; (4) Critical Manufacturing; (5) Dams; (6) Defense Industrial Base; (7) Emergency Services; (8) Energy; (9) Financial Services; (10) Food and Agriculture; (11) Government Facilities; (12) Healthcare and Public Health; (13) Information Technology; (14) Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste; (15) Transportation Systems; (16) Water and Wastewater Systems. WHITE HOUSE, OFF. IF THE PRESIDENT, PRESIDENTIAL POLICY DIRECTIVE—CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE SECURITY AND RESILIENCE (Feb. 12, 2013).

[5] As one example, an entity that does not meet the size threshold but falls within a critical infrastructure sector is a covered entity if it: (i) knowingly provides or supports information technology hardware, software, systems, or services to the Federal government; (ii) has developed and continues to sell, license, or maintain any software that has certain enumerated attributes, such as direct or privileged access to networking or computing resources; (iii) is an original equipment manufacturer, vendor, or integrator of operational technology hardware or software components; or (iv) performs functions related to domain name operations. 6 C.F.R. § 226.2 (b)(12).

[6] See 89 Fed. Reg. at 23676 (“[A] wide variety of entities, including at least some entities that do not own or operate systems or assets that meet the definition of critical infrastructure in PPD-21 but are active participants in critical infrastructure sectors and communities, are considered ‘in a critical infrastructure sector.’”), 23759 (“[T]here are a wide variety of types of entities that are active participants in critical infrastructure sectors and communities and are considered ‘in a critical infrastructure sector.’”).

[7] Id. at 23677.

[8] Id. at 23678.

[9] 6 C.F.R. § 226.2(a).

[10] Id. § 226.2(b)(1)–(16).

[11] The proposed rule defines a “cyber incident” as “an occurrence that actually jeopardizes, without lawful authority, the integrity, confidentiality, or availability of information on an information system; or actually jeopardizes, without lawful authority, an information system.” 6 C.F.R. § 226.1.

[12] Id.

[13] Id. §§ 226.8, 226.9.

[14] Id. § 226.4(a).

[15] Id. § 226.3(c).

[16] Id. § 226.4(b).

[17] Id. § 226.4(c).

[18] Id. § 226.5.

[19] See 89 Fed. Reg. at 23665 (“CISA is aware that in some cases, a covered entity will not know for certain the cause of the incident within the first few days following the occurrence of the incident. . . [A] covered entity does not need to know the cause of the incident with certainty for it to be a reportable substantial cyber incident…CISA believes its ability to achieve the regulatory purposes of CIRCIA would be greatly undermined if covered entities were allowed to delay reporting until an incident has been confirmed to have been perpetrated without lawful authority. Therefore, an incident whose cause is undetermined, but for which the covered entity has a reasonable belief that the incident may have been perpetrated without lawful authority, must be reported if the incident otherwise meets the reporting criteria.”).

[20] 6 C.F.R. § 226.13.

[21] Id.

[22] Information provided to CISA in a CIRCIA report or in a response to an RFI may only be disclosed to, retained by, and used by the Federal government for certain enumerated purposes: (i) cybersecurity; (ii) identifying a cybersecurity threat; (iii) responding to or preventing or mitigating a specific threat of death or serious bodily or economic harm; (iv) responding to, investigating, prosecuting, preventing, or mitigating a serious threat to a minor; and (v) preventing, investigating, disrupting, or prosecuting certain offenses relating to events required to be reported to CISA, fraud and identity theft, espionage and censorship, or protection of trade secrets. Id. § 226.18(c)(3).

[23] Id. § 226.18.

[24] Id. §§ 226.15–17.

[25] Id. § 226.18.