Washington

Panetta: DOD Needs Cybersecurity Bill To Help Prevent Cyber 9/11

Sees no substitute for comprehensive legislation along lines of Cybersecurity Act of 2012. 10/12/2012 02:24:19 PM Eastern

Calling it a pre-9/11 moment, Secretary of
Defense Leon Panetta Thursday told Congress to pass the Cybsecurity Act of
2012, the primarily Democrat-backed cybersecurity bill that failed to pass in
this Congress, or we will be vulnerable to terrorist
attack.

"The
fact is that to fully provide the necessary protection in our democracy,
cybersecurity legislation must be passed by the Congress," he said in a
speech in New York. "Without it, we
are and we will be vulnerable. Congress must act and it must act now on a
comprehensive bill such as the bipartisan Cybersecurity Act of 2012..."

Panetta
also said DOD was finalizing "comprehensive" changes to its current rules
of engagement in cyberspace that "will make clear that the department has
a responsibility, not only to defend DoD's networks, but also to be prepared to
defend the nation and our national interests against an attack in or through
cyberspace.

In
the speech, entitled "Defending the Nation from Cyber Attack,"
Panetta said the Internet was new terrain for warfare, a domain that must be
secured today to insure "peace and prosperity" tomorrow.

Panetta
conceded there were hackers and criminals stealing personal info to worry
about, but that was most worried about a nation state cyberattack, which he said
"could be as destructive as the terrorist attack on 9/11." That is
the same image invoked by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), lead sponsor of the
legislation, in his unsuccessful attempt to reach a bipartisan accord on
passage.

Panetta
detailed several recent cyberattacks, including the distributed denial of
service attacks on U.S. financial
institutions in the past several weeks. He said those could be the vanguard of
something worse. "We know that foreign cyber actors are probing America's critical infrastructure
networks," he said. "They are targeting the computer control systems
that operate chemical, electricity and water plants and those that guide
transportation throughout this country," and have already gained access to
some of those systems.

As
to the need for legislation, Panetta said that information sharing, which was
the focus of Republican cybersecurity, was not enough. "We've got to work
with the business community to develop baseline standards for our most critical
private-sector infrastructure," he said.

Those
standards, which Republicans were concerned would turn into congressional
mandates that would reduce private industry's ability to react quickly and
flexibly to evolving threats, were among the issues that hung up the bill.

Panetta
said political gridlock was an unacceptable excuse for not passing legislation.

The
White House is considering issuing an executive order to mandate guidelines,
but Panetta said that is not a substitute for comprehensive legislation.

Responding
to the speech, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), a co-sponsor of the
bill along with Lieberman, added his voice to the call for action: "National
security leaders across the spectrum have urged Congress to act," said
Rockefeller. "The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commanding
General of Cyber Command urged us to act. In August, Senate Republicans and
beltway lobbyists chose a filibuster over these Generals' urgent requests. Now
the Secretary of Defense is urging us again to do what we all know we must do
to protect our country from cyber terrorists. This is a time for action, not
more political obstruction."

September
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