As Congress wrapped up its work before heading off for the August recess, the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved cybersecurity legislation introduced by Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) and Ranking Member John Thune (R-SD). The new bill codifies an Obama Administration move instructing the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop ideas businesses can use to bolster their online defenses. It also sets up a workforce training plan to produce more IT security professionals. Notably, though, the bill does not lay out rules for how the private sector can share information about cyberattacks with each other and with the government, and it doesn't provide companies liability protection for cooperating with Washington.
In the House of Representatives, Rep. Pat Meehan (R-PA), the Chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies also recently introduced legislation designed to improve the acquisition process and encourage a more collaborative public-private working relationship within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The "Critical Infrastructure Research and Development Advancement (CIRDA) Act" directs DHS to facilitate the development of an R&D strategy for critical infrastructure security technologies in an effort to help our nation prioritize its investments in those aspects of the infrastructure that are most at risk.
The legislation also explores the feasibility of expanding the use of public-private R&D consortiums to accelerate new security technologies and spur innovation and economic competiveness. Much like SEMATECH did to keep our nation competitive in semiconductors, the bill envisions new R&D consortiums that will drive rapid advancements in secure infrastructure. In addition, the measure designates a 'Technology Clearinghouse' where proven security tools for protecting infrastructure can be rapidly shared amongst government and private partners. The idea is that these technologies will help keep our nation safe, secure, free and prosperous.
Finally, House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Chairman Lee Terry (R-NE) a few weeks ago announced the creation of a privacy working group to examine online privacy issues in an effort to protect personal information without hampering innovation. The group's mission is to identify the issues within the privacy sphere that require legislation and to build consensus on those issues. In addition to Chairman Terry, the privacy working group includes Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Peter Welch (D-VT) as leaders, as well as Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX), Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Jerry McNerney (D-CA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). The group will not be tasked with producing any legislation, but is expected to act as the guiding light for the subcommittee's privacy work.