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Cybersecurity Legislation Advances in the House

At a time when the threat of cyberattacks has been a frequent focus of media coverage (see CBS News Report, “FBI:  Cyber threat might surpass terror threat,” and USA Today report, “Cyberattacks likely to escalate this year”), the leaders of the Senate, House of Representatives, and President Obama have pledged to pass cybersecurity legislation this year.  A subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee took the latest step in that direction last week when it passed H.R. 3674, the Promoting and Enhancing Cybersecurity and Information Sharing Effectiveness Act of 2011 (The PrECISE Act).  The legislation would empower the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to determine which critical infrastructures require federal oversight and would establish a National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center to coordinate federal cybersecurity efforts.

The Senate is attempting to reach consensus on a comprehensive cybersecurity proposal, but senators are unable to agree on how much regulatory authority the government should have over the private sector that owns and operates over 85% of the Internet.  A senate version of their cybersecurity legislation is expected soon.

FBI Director Robert Mueller recently told the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that he believes "the cyber threat will equal or surpass the threat from counter terrorism in the foreseeable future."  Despite the expressed urgency, the Congress has been unable to secure passage of any of the cybersecurity proposals that have surfaced in the past several Congresses.  Time will tell if this year is any different.

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