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Awaiting the Senate Cyber Bill

Friday, February 10, 2012 | 9:42 AM Leave a comment Go to comments

It’s a day the tech industry and policy wonks have been impatiently awaiting, as interested parties have continued to speculate when and where the Senate’s comprehensive cybersecurity legislation might be made available.

According to some of the latest reports, the wait will come to an end today, with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) set to roll out the bill.

But along with the wait are mixed views and heightened concerns over what measures will make their way into the proposal.

Last year, just one week shy of today, HSGAC Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), alongside fellow committee members, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tom Carper (D-Del.), unveiled the Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act of 2011, which intended to provide the Department of Homeland Security with authority over private networks in the event of a “national cyber emergency.”

The bill, which failed to reach a floor debate, was criticized by many in the industry and deemed a “Big Brother” approach to cybersecurity.

This year, similar concerns are being raised, as the Associated Press has reported that the new legislation “is intended to ensure that computer systems running power plants and other essential parts of the country’s infrastructure are protected from hackers, terrorists or other criminals.”

With a large majority of the nation’s critical infrastructure owned by the private sector, many of these businesses believe that the legislation would increase their costs, meanwhile doing nothing to enhance cybersecurity.

“Where the market has worked, and systems are appropriately secure, we don’t interfere,” Sen. Lieberman told the AP. “But where the market has failed, and critical systems are insecure, the government has a responsibility to step in.”

But another group may be making plans to step in, as well.  In anticipation of the bill, a Twitter page associated with hacktivist group Anonymous this week tweeted its notion that the Senate may be planning to incorporate the much-debated privacy bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), into the cybersecurity package.

“Le sigh. US Senate REALLY wants to go another round with the Internet? — Senate sneaks in SOPA under a new name…” the tweet included.

But until we get a sneak peak or full-text view of the bill, it’s safe to say the scrutiny will remain.

Other cybersecurity news making headlines this week:

Hacker releases Symantec source code (Reuters)

Cyber attack is top threat for Olympics: Expert (CNBC)

Report: US tied for 4th among 23 countries in cyber defense (Defense News)

Tax breaks considered to improve cybersecurity on vital networks (Bloomberg)

FBI hacked while Congress ponders cybersecurity legislation (Time Magazine)

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