‘We cannot afford to wait for a ‘cyber 9/11,’ Say Lieberman, et al

Proposed legislation introduced last week calls to modernize, strengthen and coordinate the security of federal civilian and select private-sector critical infrastructure cyber networks.

Introduced by Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., and Federal Financial Management Subcommittee Chairman Tom Carper, D-De., the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010 proposes the creation of an Office of Cyber Policy in the White House with a director who would lead all federal cyberspace efforts and create a national cyberspace strategy.

The act also requires the Office of Personnel Management to reform the way cybersecurity personnel are recruited, hired and trained to ensure the federal government has the talent necessary to lead the national cybersecurity effort.

Additionally, the act calls for development of a supply-chain risk-management strategy to address risks and threats to the IT products and services upon which the federal government relies. This strategy will allow agencies to make informed decisions when purchasing IT products and services.

“The Internet may have started out as a communications oddity some 40 years ago, but it is now a necessity of modern life, and sadly one that is under constant attack,” Lieberman said. “It must be secured, – and today, Sens. Collins, Carper and I have introduced a bill which we believe will do just that.”

Lieberman said the act is designed to bring together the disjointed efforts of multiple federal agencies and departments to prevent cyber theft, intrusions and attacks across the federal government and the private sector.

“For all of its ‘user-friendly’ allure, the Internet can also be a dangerous place with electronic pipelines that run directly into everything from our personal bank accounts to key infrastructure to government and industrial secrets,” he said. “Our economic security, national security and public safety are now all at risk from new kinds of enemies — cyber warriors, cyber spies, cyber terrorists and cyber criminals. The need for this legislation is obvious and urgent.”

Collins said as U.S. and global economies become more intertwined, cyber terrorists have greater potential to attack high-value targets, disrupting telecommunications systems, shutting down electric power grids, and freezing financial markets.

“With sufficient know-how, they could cause billions of dollars in damage and put thousands of lives in jeopardy,” she said. “We cannot afford to wait for a ‘cyber 9/11 before our government finally realizes the importance of protecting our digital resources, limiting our vulnerabilities, and mitigating the consequences of penetrations of our networks.”

Carper said with the U.S. society’s increasing dependence on the Internet, enemies have identified cyberspace as an “ideal 21st century battlefield.”

“This legislation is a vital tool that America needs to better protect cyberspace,” he said. “It encourages the government and the private sector to work together to address this growing threat and provides the tools and resources for America to be successful in this critical effort.”

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