Mikulski: a ‘sense of urgency’ is driving the push to pass the Senate cyber bill in November

The U.S. Senate’s final push to pass Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Ct.) and Susan Collins’ (R-Maine.) cyber security bill into law next month will likely be bolstered by a newfound sense of urgency on all things cybersecurity, said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) this morning. "The sense of urgency is heightened, I believe the comments by [Defense ...

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The U.S. Senate's final push to pass Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Ct.) and Susan Collins' (R-Maine.) cyber security bill into law next month will likely be bolstered by a newfound sense of urgency on all things cybersecurity, said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) this morning.

"The sense of urgency is heightened, I believe the comments by [Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey] have sad that we have a compelling need," to pass legislation aimed at defending privately owned critical infrastructure from cyber attack, said Mikulski at a cyber security conference in Baltimore. "I think we'll find a way if we get the will, and we're developing the will because of the great sense of urgency" about cybersecurity.

The Lieberman-Collins bill, known as the Cyber Security Act of 2012, would establish minimal IT security standards -- and leave it largely up to private industry to enforce those standards -- allows rapid information sharing between businesses and the government, protects those businesses from lawsuits for inappropriately sharing information on private citizens and it restricts the type of information that could be collected about U.S. citizens and how it could be used. 

The U.S. Senate’s final push to pass Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Ct.) and Susan Collins’ (R-Maine.) cyber security bill into law next month will likely be bolstered by a newfound sense of urgency on all things cybersecurity, said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) this morning.

"The sense of urgency is heightened, I believe the comments by [Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey] have sad that we have a compelling need," to pass legislation aimed at defending privately owned critical infrastructure from cyber attack, said Mikulski at a cyber security conference in Baltimore. "I think we’ll find a way if we get the will, and we’re developing the will because of the great sense of urgency" about cybersecurity.

The Lieberman-Collins bill, known as the Cyber Security Act of 2012, would establish minimal IT security standards — and leave it largely up to private industry to enforce those standards — allows rapid information sharing between businesses and the government, protects those businesses from lawsuits for inappropriately sharing information on private citizens and it restricts the type of information that could be collected about U.S. citizens and how it could be used. 

The bill is aimed at defending banks, utilities and transportation companies and other so called, critical infrastructure providers, from cyber attacks.

CSA 2012 was shot down in early August by Republicans opposed to government-mandated cyber security standards for private companies.

However, if a large-scale cyber attack of the type that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently warned of happens, Congress will pass regulations far stricter than those contained in the Lieberman Collins bill.

"If there’s a wholesale attack on critical infrastructure, the congress will react, . . . they’ll pound their chest, hold snarky little hearings, we’ll over spend and we’ll over-regulate," warned Mikulski. "We’re now at a time of great rationality with a great sense of urgency, we can do it and we can do it right."

Mikulski’s comments come after Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced on Saturday that he will bring Lieberman and Collins’ bill to the Senate floor in November.

"Secretary Panetta has made clear that inaction is not an option," said Reid. "I will bring cybersecurity legislation back to the Senate floor when Congress returns in November. My colleagues who profess to understand the urgency of the threat will have one more chance to back their words with action, and work with us to pass this bill."

John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.

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