New cybersecurity legislation before Congress calls for each federal agency to appoint a dedicated chief information security officer (CISO) to ensure the federal government is complying with cybersecurity regulations.
The "Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act of 2011" -- introduced a week ago by Sens. Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Susan Collins, R-Me., and Tom Carper, D-Del. -- spells out the role of CISOs within federal agencies and outlines how federal agencies should better manage security both inside organizations and across the federal government.
According to the bill, CISOs will, like CIOs, be given the authority and a budget to perform their duties, first and foremost of which will be to ensure compliance with the security measures they set up within each agency. They also will designate a series of security controls that can be "continuously monitored" to ensure an agency is complying with its own regulations.
CISOs should collaborate with the federal CIO to develop an IT security architecture that can be used by a new office within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) called the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC), which will be established if the bill is passed. The NCCC will enforce cybersecurity policies throughout the federal government, developing operational guidance for CISOs and providing status updates on agency security to Congress.
According to the legislation, CISOs will be reporting to the director of the NCCC, who they must work with not only on security incidents affecting each agency, but also on ones that affect the government that are not under an agency's jurisdiction, according to the bill. The executives also must collaborate with both public and private-sector security stakeholders when incidents occur that affect the security of federal IT systems.
The proposed legislation that calls for CISO appointments was the subject of much controversy before its introduction because many believed it would allow for a so-called "Internet kill switch" measure to allow the president to shut down critical U.S. infrastructure that powers the Web in the event of a major cyber attack or catastrophe. In the end, the bill introduced by the senators actually bans such a provision.
A previous version of the Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act of 2011 was introduced last June as legislation called "Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010," which also would have set up the NCCC within the DHS. That bill made it past the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee but went no further.