White House Proposes Cybersecurity Bill

National breach disclosure, security information sharing, critical infrastructure are among areas of focus

The White House today proposed new cybersecurity legislation that would improve the protection of critical infrastructure, expand the sharing of security data, and impose national requirements for disclosing breaches.

"Our critical infrastructure -- such as the electricity grid, financial sector, and transportation networks that sustain our way of life – have suffered repeated cyber intrusions, and cyber crime has increased dramatically over the last decade," the White House says in its cybersecurity proposal. "... It has become clear that our nation cannot fully defend against these threats unless certain parts of cybersecurity law are updated." Among other things, the recommendations include national data breach reporting. "The Administration proposal helps businesses by simplifying and standardizing the existing patchwork of 47 state laws that contain these requirements," the proposal says. The White House also proposes to clarify "the penalties for computer crimes, synchronize them with other crimes, and set mandatory minimums for cyber intrusions into critical infrastructure."

In addition, the White House wants to speed federal assistance to state and local governments that request help with cybersecurity issues, and improve security data sharing with those entities, as well as with private industry.

"Businesses, states, and local governments sometimes identify new types of computer viruses or other cyber threats or incidents, but they are uncertain about whether they can share this information with the federal government," the White House says. "The Administration proposal makes clear that these entities can share information about cyber threats or incidents with DHS." The legislation addresses protection of critical infrastructure. "The Administration proposal requires DHS to work with industry to identify the core critical-infrastructure operators and to prioritize the most important cyber threats and vulnerabilities for those operators," according to the White House statement. "Critical infrastructure operators would develop their own frameworks for addressing cyber threats. Then, each critical-infrastructure operator would have a third-party, commercial auditor assess its cybersecurity risk mitigation plans."

The administration proposal would update the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and formalize DHS’ current role in managing cybersecurity for the federal government’s civilian computers and networks in order to provide departments and agencies with a shared source of expertise. DHS would also have more flexibility in hiring cybersecurity staff.

Service providers that support federal government systems would be required to implement intrusion prevention systems, subject to DHS audits.

The legislation also outlines guidelines for protecting individual privacy. Essentially, it requires the protection of individuals' information in all security data sharing processes. "All monitoring, collection, use, retention, and sharing of information are limited to protecting against cybersecurity threats," the proposal says. "Information may be used or disclosed for criminal law enforcement, but the Attorney General must first review and approve each such usage. When a private-sector business, state, or local government wants to share information with DHS, it must first make reasonable efforts to remove identifying information unrelated to cybersecurity threats." Have a comment on this story? Please click "Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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