Senator Pushes for Federal Cyber Security Progress

Friday, March 11, 2011

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Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is turning up the heat on the Obama administration to follow through on a comprehensive federal cyber security overhaul that began in earnest two years ago.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this week, Senator Whitehouse pressed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for updates on the administration's position.

"There's no point sorting (Senate legislation) out if we don't know where the executive branch is going to stand. As I understand it, the interagency process has lasted over a year already, during which we have been basically cut out of discussions between the executive and legislative branches. So, in the legislative branch, we are now a year into a stall on preparing the legislation that I feel we urgently need in order to protect our country from cyberattack. I don't think it's purely an executive administrative function and the shuffling things around within the executive branch under existing authorities is adequate," Whitehouse said.

When questioned about the time table for completion of interagency cyber security review, Napolitano indicated she did not have that information and would need to consult the White House.

Napolitano did agree that there needs to be a systemic change in the governance of cyber security at a national level, and that it would require new legislation to define the government's role in protecting public and private networks.

"Clarity always facilitates operations, and were on the operations side on the actual protection aspect of our civilian networks. And, so, if we can work with the Senate and get to a bill that clarifies authorities and jurisdictions, I think that would be very helpful," Napolitano said.

A recent report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) was highly critical of the slow pace of progress at which the government is securing the nation's critical infrastructure.

Emails that were leaked in the HBGary Federal network breach revealed a spate of high level attacks targeting leading companies across multiple industries.

The foreign-based attacks appear to be industrial espionage efforts intended to harvest sensitive trade secrets and intellectual property. The majority of the attacks are said to originate in China and Russia.

In regards to the plague of attacks, Senator Whitehouse had recently stated that "we are on the losing end of the biggest transfer of wealth through theft and piracy in the history of the planet."

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