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US Senate passes cybersecurity bill despite privacy concerns

The proponents of the bill said it will help prevent cyber-attacks by facilitating a common awareness in the cyber realm.

Lalit K Jha   Washington     Last Updated: October 28, 2015  | 13:43 IST
The Senate passed the bill by 74-21 votes and now the bill heads for reconciliation with the earlier-passed House cybersecurity bill.
The Senate passed the bill by 74-21 votes and now the bill heads for reconciliation with the earlier-passed House cybersecurity bill. (Photo: Reuters)

Ignoring privacy concerns, the US Senate today passed the cybersecurity bill that is being considered a critical step forward in addressing cyber threats and ensuring tools are in place to deter future cyber -attacks.

The Senate passed the bill by 74-21 votes and now the bill heads for reconciliation with the earlier-passed House cybersecurity bill.

The proponents of the bill said it will help prevent cyber-attacks by facilitating a common awareness in the cyber realm.

"I have directed an aggressive timetable for improving our federal cybersecurity in particular, and have made cybersecurity a top priority for DHS, alongside our other vital missions," Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said.

"Now, with the help of Congress, we will be able to continue our work to protect the cybersecurity of the American public, American businesses large and small, and the federal government, and take that work to the next level," Johnson said.

"By sharing more cyber threat information, we can stay ahead of the threat, bolster our defenses, and better protect our critical networks from the growing threat cyber-attacks pose to our economic security and our national security," said Senator Tom Carper, ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

"This bill also underscores that we can have both strong cybersecurity and robust privacy protections," he said.

Senator Bob Corker, after the passage of the bill, said, "there is no question that our nation faces a growing number of cyber threats. It is critical that we enable the private sector and government to work together to protect Americans from these attacks while also protecting privacy and civil liberties.

This voluntary information-sharing bill is an important first step, and I am pleased the Senate overwhelmingly supported this bipartisan legislation," Corker said.

Senator Mazie K Hirono said that although the privacy provisions should be strengthened further, the voluntary nature of the bill and the cyber threat awareness it would promote are worthy of support.

"Consumers deserve to know how their information is used, and maintaining Americans' privacy remains a key priority as we finalise this legislation," she said.

Unfortunately, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015, opens the door to massive government intrusions of privacy and misallocation of scarce government resources, while shielding from liability those who might abuse newfound, expansive powers, Senator Ben Cardin alleged.

"If we want to be better prepared to meet this threat in the future, we have to make sure that the Department of Homeland Security has the tools it needs to adequately secure our federal civilian networks," said Senator Mark Warner.

Senator Jim Inhofe said the bipartisan Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act would encourage private businesses to voluntarily collaborate with the government on cyber security threats and defenses.

"The largely publicized cyber-attacks this past year have shown that hackers are collecting anything and everything they can, whether it be patents, medical records, credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and more," he said.

In a statement, American Banking Association expressed concern over some provisions of the bill.

"While CISA will help our industry work more effectively with the federal government and other sectors to better protect our customers from cyber threats, we're concerned that some provisions adopted by the Senate may have the unintended consequence of making information sharing less effective," it said.

In particular, a provision that would change the inherent voluntary nature and structure of CISA by allowing DHS to create cybersecurity standards for critical infrastructure that would have the practical impact of regulation is unnecessary and harmful, the banking association said.

(PTI)

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