The demonstration was part of an effort by lawmakers to encourage bi-partisan cooperation on cybersecurity to underscore how important it is for the feds to align on the issue.
In addition to members of the Senate, top cybersecurity officials from various departments and agencies--including the White House, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), FBI, and National Security Agency--also participated in the event, which illustrated the consequences of a massive cyber attack at a critical time in a major U.S. city. Officials were keeping exact details of what happened at the exercise confidential.
The senior administration officials involved--including DHS secretary Janet Napolitano, White House cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt, and FBI director Robert Mueller--used the exercise to stress the need for legislation to more effectively prevent and respond to potential cyber attacks in the United States, said DHS press secretary Matt Chandler. Laws that officials want Congress to pass include risk-based performance standards for critical infrastructure systems so they meet at least a baseline level of security.
[ Federal cybersecurity incidents are growing. See Federal Cybersecurity Incidents Rocket 650% In 5 Years. ]
The Obama administration submitted a cybersecurity proposal to Congress last May to outline its priorities for cybersecurity and to press lawmakers to pass comprehensive legislation to protect critical U.S. infrastructure that powers the Internet, utilities, and other control systems that are vulnerable to attack. Cybersecurity coordinator Schmidt also pressured Congress in January to pass cybersecurity legislation; however, it has yet to do so, though it is considering a number of bills.
Since then other officials also have been sounding the alarm to get Congress to take action. Thursday National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlyn Hayden urged it to provide legislation to support federal cybersecurity efforts already underway.
"Only Congress can modernize our underlying laws and give us the full range of tools our cybersecurity professionals need to more effectively deal with this growing and increasingly sophisticated threat," she said.
Earlier this week commission co-chairs Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, former 9/11 commission co-chairs, also took up the cause in a letter sent to Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Senate co-sponsors of bi-partisan cybersecurity legislations--Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.--released the letter.
"Comprehensive legislation is needed to flesh out a range of pressing cyber security policy questions, including how the federal government should defend against and respond to cyber attacks and what measures private sector owners of critical infrastructure should take to prevent the damage or disruption of their often interconnected and interdependent networks," the senators said in the letter, which Rockefeller’s office sent to InformationWeek. "Nothing less than the security of our electricity, communications, financial, and water systems is at stake."
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