Senate Intelligence Committee approves cybersecurity bill

Tue Jul 8, 2014 6:28pm EDT

A lock icon, signifying an encrypted Internet connection, is seen on an Internet Explorer browser in a photo illustration in Paris April 15, 2014.  REUTERS/Mal Langsdon

A lock icon, signifying an encrypted Internet connection, is seen on an Internet Explorer browser in a photo illustration in Paris April 15, 2014.

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(Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee approved a bill on Tuesday to encourage companies to exchange information with the government on hacking attempts and cybersecurity threats, officials said.

Despite concerns by some that the measure does not do enough to protect privacy, the committee voted 12-3 to advance the measure authored by its chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, their offices said.

Experts see the bill as the best chance for the current congress to pass some type of legislation to encourage better cooperation between the government and private companies to boost the cyber defenses of critical industries.

"Cyber attacks present the greatest threat to our national and economic security today, and the magnitude of the threat is growing," Feinstein said in a statement. "This bill is an important step toward curbing these dangerous cyber attacks."

U.S. lawmakers have been considering for months legislation to help private companies better communicate about security breaches and cyber threats. However, comprehensive cyber bills have been delayed by spats over liability and concerns about privacy, especially following the leak of information about government surveillance programs by former contractor Edward Snowden.

The Senate bill still faces hurdles before becoming law. It must be approved by the full Senate and reconciled with similar legislation that passed the House of Representatives in April.

SUPPORT IN THE HOUSE

However, there are already signs that the measure has bipartisan support in the House. The Republican chairman and top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee issued a statement on Tuesday backing the measure and urging the full Senate to vote quickly.

"We are confident that the House and the Senate will quickly come together to address this urgent threat and craft a final bill that secures our networks and protects privacy and civil liberties," Michigan Republican Mike Rogers and Maryland Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger said in a statement.

Among other things, the bill by Feinstein and Chambliss would authorize companies and individuals to monitor their own and consenting customers' networks for hacking and voluntarily share cyber threat data, stripped of personally identifiable information, with the government and each other for cybersecurity purposes.

The legislation also directs the U.S. director of national intelligence to increase the amount of information the government shares with private firms and the Department of Homeland Security to set up and manage a data sharing portal.

The measure would also offer liability protections to companies that appropriately monitor their networks or share cyber threat data and limit the government's ability to use data it receives.

Some privacy advocates have opposed giving companies liability protections, worried about abuses of consumer data both by the private sector and the government.

Democratic Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, both members of the intelligence committee, said after the vote that they had opposed the bill because they felt it did not include sufficient privacy protections.

(Reporting by Alina Selyukh in Toronto, additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio)

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Comments (5)
nose2066 wrote:
This story: “Cyber attacks present the greatest threat to our national and economic security today…”

So the biggest threat is not some massive epidemic that kills off a large part of the population? Nor some crop disease that destroys a large part of the country’s food supply? Nor some unknown source of destructive cosmic radiation that hits planet Earth? Nor a new ice age which covers the ground year-round in blankets of snow? Nor some massive asteroid that crashes into the Earth? Nor a sudden increase in the Earth’s volcanic activity?

That is such a relief. That the main threat is only from cyber attacks.

Jul 08, 2014 8:45pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
dd606 wrote:
nose2066 wrote:So the biggest threat is not some massive epidemic that kills off a large part of the population? Nor some crop disease that destroys a large part of the country’s food supply? Nor some unknown source of destructive cosmic radiation that hits planet Earth? Nor a new ice age which covers the ground year-round in blankets of snow? Nor some massive asteroid that crashes into the Earth? Nor a sudden increase in the Earth’s volcanic activity? That is such a relief. That the main threat is only from cyber attacks.

——–

Yes, that’s right… One of the most likely dangers in the foreseeable future, is something that actually happens in reality… not something you watched on an Alex Jones video. Hard to believe, I know.

But of course… If you woke up and found your bank account empty… you’d be ranting about why somebody in the government didn’t do something to prevent it, right?

Jul 08, 2014 11:55pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
REnninga wrote:
“Senate Intelligence Committee …”

And our word for the days, kids, is “oxymoron”

Jul 08, 2014 12:18am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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