Saying it's more important than ever to improve the security of our nation's computer networks -- especially given the risk to critical infrastructure -- Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Chairman and Vice Chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, today introduced comprehensive cybersecurity legislation, mirroring the efforts of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and seven of his colleagues in the U.S. Senate.
The "Strengthening and Enhancing Cybersecurity by Using Research, Education, Information, and Technology Act of 2012" (SECURE IT), H.R. 4263, facilitates information sharing about cyber threats and cyber attacks between the private sector and the federal government. Importantly, the Bono Mack-Blackburn legislation also removes the legal roadblocks for companies that take critically important and necessary steps to protect their networks from cyber assaults. As a deterrent, the legislation also strengthens criminal penalties for hacking into servers as a growing wave of cyber thieves look to steal everything from credit card numbers to secret government documents.
"When it comes to the Internet, America continues to lead the world in innovation. The best way to fight cyber attacks in the future is to unleash that innovation in a cooperative, "we're-all-in-this-together' effort," said Bono Mack. "Under our legislation, our nation's best and brightest minds will finally be freed to work hand-in-hand to share information, develop safety protocols and put into place critical early-warning systems -- much like a Weather Service advisory before a tornado -- but shared between companies and federal authorities. And just as importantly, we can accomplish all of this during these difficult economic times without creating a new bureaucracy and spending money that we don't have, while protecting consumer privacy at the same time."
Since becoming GOP leaders of the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over privacy issues, Bono Mack and Blackburn have worked closely together on many issues, and they say they're encouraged by the strong support SECURE IT has received from the business community.
"We must ensure our virtual space is protected and that America remains a leader in technological innovation. The future of our nation's economy and national security depends on a strong cyber defense," said Blackburn. "The Bono Mack-Blackburn legislation is a good step forward in the right direction because it puts the private sector in the driver's seat, instead of relying on overly prescriptive government mandates that hamper growth and weaken response capabilities. Incentive-based security works better than heavy-handed mandates. We can limit compulsory liability on the private sector with voluntary information sharing that respects privacy while making cyber research a priority, promoting education, and strengthening penalties on cyber-criminals, all without spending additional taxpayer dollars."
A recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) highlights the problem America faces today, saying cyber attacks against the United States have increased by a staggering 650 percent over the last five years. Still another report pegs the cost of cyber crime in America at nearly $400 billion annually and growing at an alarming rate. House leaders Bono Mack and Blackburn believe "our approach to attacking this problem is rooted in cooperative information sharing and mutual self-interest as opposed to a heavy-handed, "gun-to-the-head' approach which will only create an adversarial relationship between the federal government and private sector."
Key features of the Bono Mack-Blackburn cybersecurity legislation include:
Authorizing Information Sharing. SECURE IT will help to prevent the spread of cyber attacks from network to network by providing explicit authorization for the private sector to defend its own networks and voluntarily share cyber threat information within the private sector and with the government -- without the legal barriers that currently exists.
Securing Federal Networks. SECURE IT provides important and necessary updates to the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). These reforms will modernize the way the government manages and mitigates its own cyber risks.
Prosecuting Cybercrime. SECURE IT includes needed updates to the Federal Criminal Code to enhance the authorities and criminal penalties available to the Department of Justice to prosecute and convict cybercriminals.
Prioritizing Cybersecurity Research. SECURE IT focuses on advanced cybersecurity research -- by leveraging existing resources at agencies such as the National Science Foundation -- to provide the American economy with new innovative protections against cyber attacks and threats to our supply chain.
"Improving cybersecurity is critically important to national security and the future of our economy," Bono Mack and Blackburn said. "Working together, in a collaborative partnership, is the best way to achieve this important goal. Our legislation will accomplish this without burdensome new regulations and huge new costs which could stifle innovation in the United States and kill thousands of American jobs. Let's SECURE IT -- not destroy it."