Editorial: Get On With It8/06/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern
At presstime, the fate of cybersecurity legislation
in this country was unclear. But even if the Senate
agrees to something next month, it must still run
the gauntlet in the House. We know there are two
sides to the issue, but they should only be about
the details of how we better protect ourselves
from cyber threats.
This has become a far-too-partisan issue, given that we should all be able to
concede that cyber threats are real and growing, and that as broadband becomes
the delivery system for energy and health care and government services and more,
the threat from rogue individuals and state actors needs a concerted response.
And the 85% of critical infrastructure in private hands needs the incentive and
opportunity to share critical information with each other and the government.
Protecting the privacy of that information is also important. But if we can put
a robot on Mars, we can find a way to both protect data privacy and arm ourselves
against cyber terrorists—preferably before they take control of that robot.
The Senate was heading off for August recess last week without coming to
some agreement on a bill, shame on it. Last week’s debate on the bill, which
among other things would allow ISPs and others to share cyber threat information
in real time, felt at times like a rerun of the budget stalemates that put
political hard lines ahead of the greater public interest.
After the Senate’s Democratic leader agreed to allow germane amendments to
be offered to the bill, the Republican leader proposed that the first amendment
be a vote on repealing healthcare, including the provisions kicking in last week
providing low-cost or free wellness screenings, mammograms and more. Come
again? Germane, by the way, means having something to do with the issue of
cybersecurity. Then there were the Democrat-backed amendments on gun control,
both helping swell the total to more than 90 amendments.
One amendment, for example, would allow the FCC commissioners to hire
engineers to help them navigate the digital future, which would be a good thing,
but as Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), cosponsor of the bill, said of many
amendments—not at this time, on this bill.
We are not endorsing S. 3414, the Democrats’ version of cybersecurity legislation,
or the Republican version, the Secure IT Act. It will likely have to be
some compromise between those—we know, a dirty word these days—to be
able to pass in both the House and Senate.
As his optimism turned to pessimism last week over prospects for a compromise,
Lieberman said that while special interests on the outside, and on both sides, could
hold to their hard-line positions, legislators could not afford to do so. We agree.
P.S.: This issue took on greater immediacy when a B&C staffer’s wife received
an emailed statement that the monthly cellphone bill was $25,410.81, which
had been deducted from their bank account. It turned out to be a spoof, but
it was a chilling reminder of how effective a delivery vehicle for attacks the
Internet can be.