October 27, 2015

Senate Passes Major Cybersecurity Legislation

Bill Includes Sen. Whitehouse Provision to Crack Down on Foreign Criminals Trafficking in Stolen American Credit Cards

Washington, DC – The U.S. Senate today passed the Cyber Information Sharing Act (CISA), legislation that will encourage greater coordination between the government and private sector to identify and respond to cyber threats.  The final bill includes a provision authored by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to eliminate a loophole that allows foreign cybercriminals who traffic in stolen American financial information to escape prosecution in the United States.

“Cyber attacks are among the greatest threats currently facing our national and financial security, and we need both government and the private sector to work together to address them,” said Whitehouse.  “This bill will encourage both sides to share information about the threats they are facing and how they are responding, and will ultimately help to more effectively prevent attacks and punish cyber criminals.  I’m particularly proud that it includes my provision to crack down on criminals who hide on foreign soil in order to escape prosecution for selling financial information stolen from Americans.  Cybercrime is borderless.  We cannot allow international boundaries to shelter cybercriminals who are targeting Americans.”

The issue of credit-card trafficking by foreign criminals was first raised during a Judiciary Subcommittee hearing chaired by Whitehouse in 2014.  Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell testified during the hearing that it had become a very real problem, and asked for legislation to address it.  “Currently, a criminal who trades in credit card information issued by a U.S. financial institution, but who otherwise does not take one of certain enumerated actions within the jurisdiction of the United States, cannot be prosecuted under section 1029(a)(3),” she said.  “Such scenarios are not merely hypothetical.  United States law enforcement agencies have identified foreign-based individuals selling vast quantities of credit card numbers issued by U.S. financial institutions where there is no evidence that those criminals took a specific step within the United States to traffic in the data.  The United States has a compelling interest in prosecuting such individuals given the harm to U.S. financial institutions and American citizens, and the statute should be revised to cover this sort of criminal conduct.”

The Whitehouse provision included in CISA responds to this problem by eliminating a jurisdictional restriction that shelters foreign cybercriminals who trade in financial information stolen from Americans as long as they keep their assets and infrastructure abroad. 

The House of Representatives previously passed its own information sharing bill.  The differences between the House and Senate bills will need to be reconciled before the legislation can proceed to the President. 


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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921