In the News: Blog

By Dan Kaplan

Eight Republican senators, led by John McCain, on Thursday introduced cyber security legislation that would counter the bipartisan Cybersecurity Act of 2012, which was released two weeks ago.

The new bill, known as the Strengthening and Enhancing Cybersecurity by Using Research, Education, Information, and Technology, or SECURE IT, Act  would do away with the regulatory oversight bestowed by the bipartisan measure on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and would instead rely on incentives to spur private businesses to share treat intelligence data.

Some critics, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are worried the Cyber Security Act, which is set to be debated in the coming days, will increase costs for businesses and strain resources without necessarily improving security. Proponents point to a recent string of high-profile data breaches as justification for regulations.

However, under the SECURE IT Act, businesses would be incentive, not forced, to collaborate. And the legislation creates a mechanism for sharing and receiving threat information via so-called "cybersecurity centers" within government.

“The SECURE IT Act strengthens America's cyber security by promoting collaboration and information-sharing, updating our criminal laws to account for the growing cyber threat and enhancing research programs to protect our critical networks,” McCain said in a news release. “This legislation will help us begin to meet the very real threat of cyber attack.”

Despite the push to share information, the measure appears to do a decent job of preserving privacy, said Jerry Brito, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia, in a blog post.

"[T]his new alternative goes further on privacy than the Liberman-Collins bill," Brito wrote. "It limits the type of information ISPs and other critical infrastructure providers can share with law enforcement. Without such limits, information sharing could become a back door for government surveillance. With these limits in place, information sharing is certainly preferable to the more regulatory route taken by the Liberman-Collins bill."

Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, were that bill's main backers.

The SECURE IT Act was introduced by Sens. McCain of Arizona, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Lisa Murkowski of Arkansas, Dan Coats of Indiana and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Richard Burr of North Carolina.

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