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Cybersecurity: The Senate Refuses to Act as the Threat Grows

Posted By David Brousell, August 06, 2012 at 11:07 AM, in Category: Transformative Technologies

Late last week, in a 52-46 vote, the U.S. Senate blocked a bill that would have established new and much needed cybersecurity rules. The measure, called the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, fell when it failed to get the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster and proceed to a full Senate vote.

That's too bad for businesses, the public, and national security. The bipartisan bill, which was introduced in February by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), would have helped address a growing threat, even though it had been modified in recent weeks to have voluntary instead of mandatory rules.

In late July, Gen. Keith Alexander, the chief of the U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, told Congress that intrusions against computers that run power plants, electric grids, refineries, transportation networks, and other infrastructure systems have increased 17-fold from 2009 to 2011. Last year, there were at least 200 attempted or successful attacks on such facilities, according to press reports. These attacks emanated from a variety of sources, including China and other foreign governments as well as hackers and criminals, reportedly costing billions annually.

Gen. Alexander is also reported to have said that it is only a matter of time before an attack causes physical damage. Even more importantly, he said that on a scale of 1 to 10, preparedness for a large-scale cyber-attack -- against a stock exchange, for example -- is about a 3.

Despite these warnings, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill on the grounds that it put too onerous a burden on businesses to comply. For its part, the Electronic Frontier Foundation claimed that the bill would have enabled businesses to spy on Web users.

The bottom line here is that the failure of the Senate to act will most likely mean that cybersecurity legislation doesn't have a prayer of enactment in this election year or even beyond 2012. President Obama does have the option of using his power to issue executive orders to put in place some of the bill's provisions, something he should consider doing.

Before a really serious attack occurs.

David R. Brousell is Vice President & Editorial Director of Manufacturing Executive.

Written by David Brousell

Global Vice President, General Manager and Editorial Director of the Manufacturing Leadership Council

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