In an effort to begin addressing the nation's cybersecurity vulnerabilities, the U.S. House of Representatives today passed a number of bills to help protect private and public computer networks. Passage of the bills follows nearly a year of work on the issue in the House, led in part by area Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon).
"Together, these bills begin to close the expanding gap between cyber threats and technological changes and the outdated laws and policies that cannot keep up with them," said Rep. Thornberry. "These bills are the product of many months of work, an effort that I have been privileged to help lead in the House. Now I hope the Senate will follow suit," he continued.
The legislation includes an update to the Federal Information Security Act of 2002 -- to push the government to do a better job of protecting its networks, requiring continuous monitoring and defense in depth. Additionally, there are two bills that will focus more federal research and development efforts on cyber, complementing the massive private sector investment in this area.
The four bills also include legislation to help with information sharing. The federal government now has a great deal of information about threats, which it uses to help defend military and intelligence networks. But much of that capability is sidelined when it comes to defending the rest of the country -- particularly critical infrastructure, which includes things like electrical power systems, gas and oil storage, financial systems, and water supply. The new House bill would allow government information to be shared with the private sector, private sector information to be shared -- voluntarily -- with the government, and private entities to share with each other. There are also strong safeguards to ensure that information is not misused and privacy of individual Americans is protected.
House leaders are pleased with passage of the bills.
"Protecting American jobs and security from the threat of cyber attacks is critical, and the House has now taken some common-sense steps to do that," said Speaker of the House John Boehner. "Many people played a role in making these bills a reality, and in particular I would like to commend Mac Thornberry for his leadership on this issue in the House, his efforts in leading the Cyber Task Force, and his commitment to helping assure these bills' passage," he said.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said, "As Chairman of the House Cybersecurity Task Force, Representative Thornberry's leadership paved the way for the passage of four significant, bipartisan measures to update our nation's cyber laws. I thank Mac for his hard work to promote economic growth, innovation and protect our national security interests."
In early 2011, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) stated that Congress could not go another session without beginning to reduce the nation's vulnerability in cyberspace. They created a Cybersecurity Task Force to make recommendations and coordinate among the nine House committees with significant jurisdiction on this issue. They asked Thornberry to lead the effort.
Since the task force issued recommendations last fall, the various committees have been devising legislation. The bills that passed the House today incorporate some of the Thornberry Task Force recommendations.
The bills will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.