Cybersecurity Act heads to Senate floor

The Senate Commerce Committee this week reported sweeping legislation aimed at enhancing the public-private coordination to defend the nation’s communications systems and other critical infrastructure against cyber attacks.

The Cybersecurity Act, co-sponsored by John Rockefeller (D-W.V.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), heads to the full Senate for consideration after four revisions to the original bill introduced last April. In a concession to sharp criticism from privacy groups and others, the senators dropped controversial provisions that would authorize the president to seize control and shut down private networks after declaring a “cybersecurity emergency,” and also stripped out language that would have given the Commerce Department a mandate to supersede current privacy laws when dealing with an attack.

Touting the bill’s passage from committee, the senators stressed the urgency of the cyber threat in no small terms.

“Our future is literally being stolen from us. Cyber attacks and hackers are at work raiding property and proprietary information from U.S. companies and innovators,” committee Chairman Rockefeller said in a statement. “The status quo is not sustainable.”

Rockefeller and Snowe have praised the administration for its early steps to improve federal cybersecurity policy, which began with a comprehensive review of the current response and defense mechanisms and eventually led to the appointment of Howard Schmidt to lead the White House efforts on the issue and coordinate with Congress, the agencies and the private sector.

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