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Will It Take a 'Cyber Pearl Harbor' To Break Congressional Deadlock? 104

Posted by Soulskill
from the or-perhaps-a-cybertsunami,-or-a-cyberarmageddon dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "For years lawmakers had heard warnings about holes in corporate and government systems that imperil U.S. economic and national security. Now Ward Carroll writes that in the face of what most experts label as a potential 'Cyber Pearl Harbor' threat, Republicans have stalled the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 with a Senate vote of 51–47 against the legislation. This drew a quick response from the staff of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: 'The U.S. defense strategy calls for greater investments in cybersecurity measures, and we will continue to explore ways to defend the nation against cyber threats,' says DoD spokesman George Little. 'If the Congress neglects to address this security problem urgently, the consequences could be devastating.' Many Senate Republicans took their cues from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and businesses that framed the debate not as a matter of national security, but rather as a battle between free enterprise and an overreaching government. They wanted to let companies determine whether it would be more cost effective — absent liability laws around cyber attacks — to invest in the hardware, software, and manpower required to effectively prevent cyber attacks, or to simply weather attacks and fix what breaks afterwards. 'Until someone can argue both the national security and the economic parts of it, you're going to have these dividing forces,' says Melissa Hathaway, a White House cyber official in the Bush and Obama administrations. 'Most likely, big industry is going to win because at the end of the day our economy is still in trouble.'"
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Will It Take a 'Cyber Pearl Harbor' To Break Congressional Deadlock?

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  • Patriot Act 2.0 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 16, 2012 @01:24PM (#42002963)

    A "cyber-Pearl Harbor" would break congressional deadlock in only one sense: You'd get the online equivalent of the Patriot Act. Politicians only seem to be able to agree on conceding civil liberties for the fake perception of security.

  • Sounds reasonable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Score Whore (32328) on Friday November 16, 2012 @01:24PM (#42002977)

    While the internet had its roots in DARPA, the reality is that the "public infrastructure" is privately owned. Critical government systems should not be on it. Critical privately owned and operated services (power, telecom, etc.) should be hardened to the extent that the provider desires or the contracts that they signed with various municipalities require.

    I've worked contract gigs with the armed services and I have a lot of respect for the technical skills they have, but that's irrelevant. Companies and businesses should be able to make their own decisions and benefit from their good decision making or suffer from their poor decision making. Anywhere that government intersects with private industry, it's on the government to make sure their contracts properly spell out their requirements. End of story.

  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday November 16, 2012 @01:25PM (#42002989)

    The problem with legislating "security" is that you end up with "compliance" instead. The companies get a checklist and fill it in with the cheapest "solutions" possible that will allow them to check off each item.

    It's a start. Right now, most companies have no idea how to handle anything other than "run anti-virus software" on as many machines as can be conveniently handled.

  • Deadlock? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Friday November 16, 2012 @01:25PM (#42002991) Journal
    It isn't deadlock every time a bill is voted down. Sometimes it's just a bad bill and SHOULD be voted down [eff.org].
  • Oh god no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by identity0 (77976) on Friday November 16, 2012 @01:34PM (#42003103) Journal

    I guess we didn't learn anything from when 9-11 happened and we created the TSA, a group of intrusive busybodies at best and molestors at worst.

    Or organized all federal law enforcement under the DHS without actually thinking about how it would coordinate things so we have another layer of government that is busy trying to justify their existence by going after random stuff. I hear they do copyright enforcement now?

    I suppose we are set to see a Cybersecurity Agency with powers to monitor everything and permaban people from the internet based on anonymous accusations like the no-flight lists? What's the worst that could happen?

  • by El Cubano (631386) <roberto.connexer@com> on Friday November 16, 2012 @01:50PM (#42003257) Homepage

    Republicans have stalled the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 with a Senate vote of 51-47 against the legislation

    So, I am not an expert on politics, but in the current congress, there 51 democratic senators, 47 republican senators, and 2 independents (both of whom caucus with the democrats). By my count, if every single senate republican voted against this, that still only comes to 47 votes. That means that the other 4 would have had to break ranks with the democratic party. So, just who is at fault here?

    Just saying.

  • by Jawnn (445279) on Friday November 16, 2012 @02:06PM (#42003293)

    While the internet had its roots in DARPA, the reality is that the "public infrastructure" is privately owned. Critical government systems should not be on it. Critical privately owned and operated services (power, telecom, etc.) should be hardened to the extent that the provider desires or the contracts that they signed with various municipalities require.

    I've worked contract gigs with the armed services and I have a lot of respect for the technical skills they have, but that's irrelevant. Companies and businesses should be able to make their own decisions and benefit from their good decision making or suffer from their poor decision making. Anywhere that government intersects with private industry, it's on the government to make sure their contracts properly spell out their requirements. End of story.

    While your reasoning is seductive, it is fundamentally flawed. The reality is that "government" buys a lot of it's services from private companies. That includes utilities like electricity and water, as well as networking services. While there a few three-letter federal agencies who can justify the expense and complexity of laying their own fiber/copper from place to place. Most can do no such thing, not even close, so they buy what they need from the carriers. Yes, yes, we all all know about the ways that networking over leased media, even over the public Internet, can be made reasonably secure. We also know that "secure" is a not a state, but rather a process. Lastly, we know that many, many of the "moving parts" on the Internet are not kept as secure as they might be.

    All that said, I don't expect the federal government, much less Congress, to "get it right" when it comes to regulations regarding "cyber security". And I am seriously loathe to let those bastards write a blank check to their favorite campaign donors from the "cyber security" industry, but at some point we are going to have to spend serious money to make sure that the lights stay on, the cell towers still work, and that emergency services communications still function. The expertise to "properly spell out their requirements" does not come cheaply. It will have to be bought. The Republicans are blocking this because the right barrels aren't going to get enough pork, not because they don't appreciate the problem. Nor do they give a shit about our privacy. I just hope like hell that the debate is vigorous and involves people who actually know what they're talking about. Yeah, I know. I'm a dreamer.

  • bias much? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slew (2918) on Friday November 16, 2012 @02:56PM (#42003867)

    Republicans have stalled the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 with a Senate vote of 51–47 against the legislation.

    Last I heard, the democrats had a majority (and the tie-break vote) in the senate. Why blame this on the republicans?

    Many Senate Republicans took their cues from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and businesses that framed the debate not as a matter of national security, but rather as a battle between free enterprise and an overreaching government. They wanted to let companies determine whether it would be more cost effective — absent liability laws around cyber attacks — to invest in the hardware, software, and manpower required to effectively prevent cyber attacks, or to simply weather attacks and fix what breaks afterwards.

    Not that I advocate waiting can cleaning up the mess later, I fear that all we would be doing is creating a safe harbor for companies by the proposed approach (basically I did the government recommendations, still got hacked, no problem). It would be much better to clarify what companies would be liable for and how much. I think better tradeoffs could be made rather than with a proscriptive government approach. See Section 706 of the bill: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/s2105/text [govtrack.us] .

    Even if this doesn't pass, for federal infrastructure and infrastructure deemed important to national security, Obama can unilateral impose most of these things as an Executive order for government entities and contractors.

    As written the bill attempts to force IT that causes the interruption of life-sustaining services, catastrophic economic damage (vs just severe degradation of national security or national security capabilities) which is a much wider scope. You might argue as written, this bill is so vague that could be construed to apply to Amazon, or Google, or even a small airline or bus or telephone company that has the only service for an isolated area. Also as with many bills, it comes with its share of government overhead (appropriations for national education and awareness programs, recruiting for various government agencies, etc)...

    I guess it's still divided government, and very few people want to write a good bill, but just try to force their bill and blame the other side for not being able to pass them... Sigh...

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