Hackers breaching the computer security networks of government agencies and private companies is the top security threat to the U.S.
While putting an outright stop to hacking is a pipe dream, some members of U.S. Congress do wish to improve this country’s cyber defenses through better cyber threat information sharing between the private sector and the federal government. For that, there’s the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act.
After failing in the Senate after passing through the House last spring, CISPA was reintroduced this year, advanced through the House Intelligence Committee last week and hits the floor of the House today and tomorrow for debate.
As Technically Baltimore has reported, the legislation has been the source of contentious debate between supporters and privacy groups, who claim CISPA:
- Is not protective of people’s personal information.
- Affords private companies needlessly broad legal immunity to share that information, without judicial retribution, with the federal government.
Their arguments have not fallen on deaf ears, apparently: on Tuesday, the White House issued a veto threat against CISPA, as it did in 2012 when the bill was first introduced, arguing it “does not require private entities to take reasonable steps to remove irrelevant personal information when sending cybersecurity data to the government.”
But Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger expected as much.
Ruppersberger is the co-sponsor of CISPA and the representative from Maryland’s 2nd Congressional District — the same district where the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command are based.
Responding to the White House veto threat Tuesday, he told “The Hill”: “We’ll move forward. We did last time and we will this time because the [cyber] threat is just so severe.”
He’s been active on Twitter in recent months championing the legislation, and published a list of CISPA “mythbusters” on Monday. On Tuesday, Technically Baltimore reported that Ruppersberger had received more than $160,000 from pro-CISPA interest groups from July 2010 through June 2012.
Technically Baltimore spoke with Congressman Ruppersberger via e-mail about CISPA.
TB: What’s the prognosis on CISPA getting out of the House this time?
DR: CISPA has bipartisan support and since the bill was first introduced last year, [and] there have been number of positive changes made to it. I am hopeful that my colleagues will appreciate the threat that cyber security presents to our country, so that we can work together to create a deterrent to future cyber attacks.
TB: How has President Obama’s administration reacted to changes in drafts of the legislation this year?
DR: We continue to maintain an open dialogue with all privacy and civil liberties groups as well as the administration. I look forward to working with all interested parties to get this important legislation passed.
TB: What’s the big need for CISPA? Why reintroduce the legislation now?
DR: In the past year alone, since we passed our 2012 cyber bill, these cyber attackers have hit major oil companies, banks, newspapers and government agencies. They have stolen billions of dollars of America’s intellectual property, national security intelligence, trade secrets and corporate information. The attackers have shut down websites, disrupted services, corrupted huge masses of data and caused untold job losses. We cannot afford to wait around any longer before we act on this threat. CISPA will create a layer of protection around our country and its economy.
TB: What’s your response to the petition opposing CISPA with more than 300,000 signatures that was delivered to Congress in March?
DR: CISPA works to protect the privacy of individuals. It does not allow the government to monitor your computer or read your e-mails. CISPA does not let the government shut down websites or require companies to turn over personal information.
It is important to note that under CISPA, private information remains private. Information sharing between companies and the government will be entirely voluntary. Businesses do not have to share information with the government in order to receive information from the government.
CISPA [also] requires the Intelligence Community’s Inspector General annually to review and report on the government’s handling and use of information that has been shared by the private sector under this bill to prevent and remedy any instances of abuse.
TB: Why are you a co-sponsor of CISPA? What’s your particular interest in cybersecurity?
DR: Cyber attacks present a very real and dangerous threat to the United States and we have to act now to address it. Every day, foreign governments, terrorist organizations and criminal groups attack the cyber networks in both the public and private sectors. We have seen a number of attacks recently and it’s only going to get worse unless we create a shield to protect the U.S. from foreign hackers who want to infiltrate our networks. … Congress needs to act now.
Watch Dutch Ruppersberger and Mike Rogers, chief CISPA sponsor and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, discuss national cybersecurity on CNN:
Knowledge is power!
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