On December 15, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled the omnibus spending bill, which includes the Cybersecurity Act of 2015 - legislation that would affect how businesses share information with each other and the government, and establish an information system for the government to share “cyber threat indicators and defensive measures in real time consistent with the protection of classified information” with federal and non-federal entities. The cybersecurity text included in the omnibus bill is a combination of three cybersecurity bills that were under legislative consideration this year, as follows: S. 754 – Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015; H.R. 1731 – National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act of 2015; and H.R. 1560 – Protecting Cyber Networks Act. Designating the Department of Homeland Security as the government’s proxy, the revised legislation provides entities with liability protections to voluntarily share with the government cybersecurity threat information. Specifically, regarding the sharing or receipt of cyber threat indicators, the legislation reads, “[n]o cause of action shall lie or be maintained in any court against any private entity, and such action shall be promptly dismissed, for the sharing or receipt of a cyber threat indicator or defensive measure under section 104(c).” Although the legislation includes text mandating that entities “implement and utilize a technical capability configured to remove any information not directly related to a cybersecurity threat that the non-Federal entity knows at the time of sharing to be personal information of a specific individual or information that identifies a specific individuals,” critics from privacy and civil liberties organizations argue that the language is vague, offering citizens little protection while enhancing intelligence agencies’ capability to invade personal privacy.
The House is scheduled to vote on the legislation Friday, December 18, with the Senate - should the legislation pass the House - acting shortly thereafter.