White House Releases Proposed Cyber Security Legislation — Critics Are Underwhelmed

On May 12, 2011, the White House forwarded proposed cyber security legislation to Congress.  The complete statement from the White House is below.  The Associated Press notes that various legislative committees have waited two years for this.  The AP also quotes Stewart Baker, former General Counsel of the National Security Agency: "The Administration's proposal shows no sense of urgency. …It tells even critical industries on which our lives and society depend that they will have years before anyone from government begins to evaluate their security measures."

I hope to write more on this tomorrow.  The proposal opens with amending Title 18, United States Code, Section 1030(a) (The Computer Fraud & Abuse Act) to add a consecutive penalty of three years imprisonment if an offense under the statute involves a "critical infrastructure computer."  It is hard to see how a three year enhancement would deter hackers other than kids acting for sport.  In addition, of course, attribution of an unauthorized access under the statute can be very difficult, and obtaining jurisdiction over a non-U.S. perpetrator is problematic, too.  But, more on that as soon as I have the time.

The White House Blog

The Administration Unveils its Cybersecurity Legislative Proposal

Posted by Howard A. Schmidt on May 12, 2011 at 02:00 PM EDT

Today I am happy to announce that the Administration has transmitted a cybersecurity legislative proposal to Capitol Hill in response to Congress’ call for assistance on how best to address the cybersecurity needs of our Nation.  This is a milestone in our national effort to ensure secure and reliable networks for Americans, businesses, and government; fundamentally, this proposal strikes a critical balance between maintaining the government’s role and providing industry with the capacity to innovatively tackle threats to national cybersecurity.  Just as importantly, it does so while providing a robust framework to protect civil liberties and privacy.

When the President released his Cyberspace Policy Review (pdf) almost two years ago, he declared cyberspace as a key strategic asset for the United States and its security just as vital.  This legislative proposal is the latest achievement in the steady stream of progress we are making in securing cyberspace and completes another near-term action item (pdf) identified in the Cyberspace Policy Review.

The Administration proposal helps safeguard your personal data and enhances your right to know when it has been compromised.  In addition to educating you on how to protect yourself from cyber threats with the Stop. Think. Connect. campaign, we believe organizations should inform you when your sensitive personal information may have been compromised.  This notice not only helps you to protect yourself against harms like identity theft, but also incentivizes organizations to have better data security in the first place.  Today, our country has a patchwork of 47 state notification laws.  Our proposal simplifies and strengthens this reporting requirement and reaches all Americans.

It helps protect our national security by addressing threats to our power grids, water systems, and other critical infrastructure.  These systems are the backbone of our modern economy; many are privately owned, but all merit our support in protecting them.  The Administration proposal advances the security of our increasingly “wired” critical infrastructure, strengthens the criminal penalties for hacking into the systems that control these vital resources, and clarifies the ability of companies and the government to voluntarily share information about cybersecurity threats and incidents in a privacy-protective manner.  This is behavior we want and need to promote.

It helps the U.S. government protect our federal networks, while creating stronger privacy and civil liberties protections that keep pace with technology.  Since our Federal systems are under constant pressure by hackers, criminals and other threats, the government needs better tools to detect and prevent those threats.  Part of cybersecurity is about finding malicious programs, and stopping their spread before they have any impact.  This proposal allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement intrusion detection and prevention systems that can help speed our response to these incidents.  The Administration proposal also designs a framework for protecting privacy and civil liberties that includes new oversight, reporting requirements, and annual certification to ensure that cybersecurity technologies are used for their intended purpose and nothing more.

The Administration’s proposal is one of a number of important steps we are taking towards achieving better cybersecurity.  We look forward to working with Congress as it moves forward on this issue.  Together, with a shared responsibility to enhance online safety and security, we can ensure cyberspace continues to be an area defined by growth and innovation.

Howard A. Schmidt is the Cybersecurity Coordinator and Special Assistant to the President


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One Response to “White House Releases Proposed Cyber Security Legislation — Critics Are Underwhelmed”

  1. wcs says:

    NPR has an audio file and transcript of its 5/12/11 coverage of this event at http://www.npr.org/2011/05/12/136250408/obama-lays-out-cybersecurity-plan?ft=1&f=1122 .

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