The following Wastewatcher was composed by Jordan M. Hicks IV.
Cybersecurity has been a very prevalent issue on Capitol Hill recently with legislation such as The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and The Protect IP Act (PIPA) being introduced before Congress. Both of these bills pertain to issues of piracy and online theft, and the negative impact they can have on the economy. As concerns over these issues have increased, the issue of cyber attacks and their threat to national security has grown rapidly.
Last week, the House passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) with a vote of 248-168. This legislation was introduced by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) in November 2011 to address the ongoing concern of the growing number of cyber attacks on both government and private sector information technology (IT) networks.
A cyber attack is a breach to a network’s security that can affect the operation and stability of the network, and any systems associated within the network. Cyber attacks could potentially disrupt communications in transportation systems and impact electrical grids causing chaotic scenarios. These attacks can also include the theft of personal and private information used for financial gain and other malicious schemes.
CISPA would provide the U.S. Government the authority to share data back and forth with private organizations. This sharing of information would be used to analyze threats and breaches to networks in hopes of thwarting future attacks as well as locating the source of the attacks.
The legislation has generated contentious debate over several privacy issues. Opponents believe it would allow the government to unjustifiably access personal and private information of American citizens using the Internet for legitimate purposes. Last week, The White House issued a statement strongly opposing the bill and included the recommendation of a Presidential veto.
On the other side, several major corporations including Facebook and IBM support CISPA and believe it is a step in the right direction to combat potential cyber attacks. Microsoft originally was in support of the bill, but according to an article released this week, has had a “change of heart” due their own concern with privacy issues related to CISPA
Prior to final passage, several amendments were offered to address the privacy concerns of the bill’s opponents. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R- Va.) offered an amendment to ease concerns over the scope of the government’s access to data. The amendment states that it would “narrow definitions in the bill regarding what information may be identified, obtained, and shared.” Rep. Benjamin Quayle (R- Ariz.) offered an amendment that would clarify the purpose for the government use of cyberthreats information by limiting it to “(1) Cybersecurity; (2) investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crimes; (3) protection of individuals from the danger of death or physical injury; (4) protection of minors from physical or psychological harm; and (5) protection of the national security of the United States.”
While the bill must now be considered by the Senate, the White House has already issued a veto threat citing privacy concerns with its current legislative language. Addressing any threat concerning the United States or its citizens is of the utmost importance. Whether this includes physical or digital threats, it is important that the country is prepared to address them as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The future of cybersecurity legislation pending before Congress remains to be seen, but with bipartisan support on cybersecurity legislation that takes a balanced approach to protecting both critical infrastructure and individual privacy, cyber attacks and those responsible can be quelled and brought to justice.
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