Thursday 28 November, 2013
The United States senate is about to pass its first bill that specifically deals with cyber security. Released on Wednesday, July 13, by the staffs of Senators John Rockefeller (D, West Virginia) and Senator John Thune (D, South Dakota), it’s the first in what’s expected to be a series of bills to help the United States protect itself against possible cyber-attacks. The bill was drafted by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
Top US officials have expressed concerns over the nation’s infrastructure and its vulnerability to cyber-attacks and this is what the bill aims to address. But privacy advocates worry about what other affects it will have. Thus far, the US government doesn’t have a stellar track record when it comes to protecting its citizens’ privacy online.
What the Bill Would Do
The main purpose of the bill is to task the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with creating voluntary standards for cyber-security and best practices to be implemented for the US infrastructure. This would include banks, power plants and other critical infrastructure. The NIST is an agency within the Commerce Department.
Aside from this main purpose, it would also fund research on cyber-security and spread awareness among the public about online security issues such as malware.
Your Privacy Online
As far as privacy is concerned, it doesn’t sound too bad at the outset. The idea of critical infrastructure protecting itself from cyber-attacks sounds good and the public can always use more information on online security. But this is only the first in a proposed series of legislation that will affect what we do online.
Senator Jay Rockefeller, who is not only one of the bill’s promoters but also chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, has expressed that he wants to enable more information sharing. ‘Information sharing’ is the modern-day word for spying on what you do online. Privacy advocates believe that this historic first legislation will set a precedent and open the door to more invasive legislation.
Privacy advocates are also concerned because CISPA is still on our minds. CISPA is the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, passed earlier this year, which allows private companies such as Facebook to freely hand over your data to the government for any reason whatsoever. CISPA shows that the US government has no regard for your privacy online. Perhaps because of that, people are wary of any kind of cyber-security legislation.
Then again, President Obama has given the National Security Administration a blank check on its spying activities anyway. What you do online is already the government’s business and your 4th Amendment rights don’t apply. Other critics of the bill say it won’t change anything at all. It’s just over-regulation.
The bill is expected to pass within the next few months.
Sasso, Brendan. ‘Senate commerce panel unveils cybersecurity bill.’ The Hill, July 11, 2013. Available online at http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/310487-senate-commerce-panel-announces-cybersecurity-bill
Walton, Zach. ‘New Cybersecurity Bill Finally Drafted By Senate.’ CyberSecurity Pro News, July 19, 2013. Available online at http://www.securitypronews.com/new-cybersecurity-bill-finally-drafted-by-senate-2013-07