Federalized Cybersecurity

April 28th, 2009 | Sources: Washington Post


Senators John Rockefeller (D-WVa) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) have introduced new legislation designed to supersize current US defense systems against cyberattacks.

The proposal would empower the Feds to establish and enforce security standards governing the private sector for the first time.

thislightistakingforeverIn the US, private networks control key infrastructure such as electricity, water and sewage, and nuclear power, not to mention most financial and traffic control systems.

The new bill reached the docket just days after national security officials announced that Russian and Chinese cyberspies had hacked their way into the nations’ energy grid and inserted applets that could be activated remotely resulting in massive blackouts, gridlock and who knows what else.

The legislation suggests appointing a cybersecurity czar that would report directly to the president. This person would be empowered to disable computer networks, including those in the private sector, in the event of a cyberattack.

The Senators’ bill was drafted with input from the Big O’s people, although he has not officially endorsed it yet. It is based on recommendations made in a report drafted last year by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

It’s not clear how industry groups will respond. Jim Dempsey, a VP for public policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology, which advocates for civil liberties groups and the private sector, told the Washington Post that such standards have long been a “third rail of cybersecurity policy.”

Federal regulations, he added, might actually stifle innovative approaches to cybersecurity by requiring companies to adopt a singular approach.

Recently, Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence told reporters he expected there will be privacy concerns regarding the new proposal. Any program has to be designed to assure citizens it is “not being used to gather private information,” he told reporters.


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