ISPs: No new cybersecurity regulations needed

Congress could remove legal barriers for private companies to share threat information with each other, network operators say

By , IDG News Service |  Networking

The U.S. Congress should resist any temptations to pass new cybersecurity rules affecting broadband and mobile service providers, a group of Internet service providers told lawmakers Wednesday.

Instead, Congress could remove some legal barriers for ISPs to share cyberthreat information with each other and for the government to share information with private companies, officials with five broadband and mobile network operators said during a hearing before the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee's communications subcommittee.

ISPs have "strong incentives" to secure their networks and invest heavily in cybersecurity because of competition, said Jason Livingood, vice president of Internet systems engineering at Comcast. "Attempting to impose uniform cybersecurity solutions could actually be counterproductive, by enabling an attacker that cracks a single solution to compromise multiple systems, and by slowing down or constraining our ability to rapidly develop innovative cybersecurity solutions," he said.

Edward Amoroso, chief security officer at AT&T Services, agreed that new regulations aren't needed, but he also suggested that many private companies are being "out innovated" by cyberattackers. Congress should look for ways to provide incentives to companies and universities to develop innovative cybersecurity protections, he said.

Many recent pieces of malware are "so good and so well-crafted that we marvel at how far the adversary has come," he said.

The five witnesses at the hearing, also including representatives of Research In Motion, Century Link and MetroPCS Communications, all agreed that they don't need more cybersecurity regulations. The witnesses didn't point to existing legislation that would create more regulations, but some critics have said the Cybersecurity Act, introduced in the Senate in February, would create new regulations for network operators and owners of other critical infrastructure.

Regulation can't keep up with rapidly changing threats and the responses, the witnesses said. "When you write a law, we do paperwork," Amoroso said.

Delegate Donna Christensen, a Virgin Islands Democrat, asked what agencies should have a role in defining cybersecurity practices.

If network operators were not taking basic steps to protect their businesses, then someone in government should "shake us into action," Amoroso said.

"I don't think there's an agency right now that's in a good position, to solve a problem that we can't solve ourselves," he added. "The problem is, we don't know what it is you should be telling us we should be doing."

Amoroso and Livingood, representing the two largest ISPs in the U.S., seemed to disagree what steps their businesses should take to combat cyberthreats.

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