June 21, 2011

Whitehouse Chairs Hearing to Evaluate Obama Administration’s Cybersecurity Proposals

RI Congressman Langevin and Administration Officials Testify

Washington, DC – Following the recent announcement of the Obama Administration’s cybersecurity proposals, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today held a hearing of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism to evaluate the plan.  The proposals, which the Obama Administration unveiled in May, aim at key cybersecurity challenges, for instance securing our critical infrastructure, such as our electric grid, and providing for voluntary assistance in response to a cyber incident. 

“Our nation’s privacy, intellectual property, security, and economic prosperity are under constant and worsening cyber attack,” said Whitehouse, who last year chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Cyber Task Force.  “Congress must pass legislation giving the Administration and private entities the tools they need to enhance our nation’s cybersecurity while protecting our privacy.  Today’s hearing is an important step toward drafting appropriate cybersecurity legislation that will achieve those goals.”

Leading off the panel of witnesses today was Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), who serves as co-chair of the Congressional Cyber Security Caucus.  “We are reaching critical mass, where our citizens are finally becoming aware of the threats that exist online, but a major catastrophe has not yet fallen on our digital shores,” said Langevin.  “Inevitably, once such an event does occur, there will be strong and irresistible calls for broader measures that could overreact to a new threat. We must act now to implement sensible policies that enhance both security and privacy, before we are faced with a set of decisions that could fundamentally alter one of the most incredible tools of our time.”

Every year, cyber attacks inflict enormous harm on our nation’s consumers, businesses, and government agencies. This constant cyber assault has resulted in the theft of millions of Americans’ identities; the loss of billions of dollars of intellectual property; vulnerability of critical infrastructure to sabotage; and intrusions into sensitive government networks – most recently the websites for the CIA and U.S. Senate.

Today’s hearing focused specifically on three elements of the Administration’s proposals: the proposed data breach notification requirement, the voluntary information sharing proposal, and recommendations for increased criminal penalties under the hacking statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1030.  Testifying on behalf of the Administration were James A. Baker, Associate Deputy Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice; Greg Schaffer, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD); and Ari Schwartz, Senior Internet Policy Advisor for the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the Department of Commerce. 

In a joint statement the officials said, “The cybersecurity vulnerabilities in our government and critical infrastructure are a risk to national security, public safety, and economic prosperity. The Administration has responded to Congress’ call for input on the cybersecurity legislation that our Nation needs, and we look forward to engaging with Congress as they move forward on this issue.”

The Senate has been working to develop comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to improve our nation’s cyber security and is expected to take up a bill this year.


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