February 17, 2012, 9:31 AM — The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 would give the Department of Homeland Security power to regulate the kind of company security protections government deems necessary to protect critical infrastructure -- such as power and phone companies, water and treatment plants, wireless providers and other companies based on DHS risk assessments. Details emerged during a formal hearing chaired by Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., yesterday.
Lieberman began the hearing by stating that the proposed law wouldn't tell companies how to meet security requirements, that they could use any hardware or software they chose, and that all indications were that the law would enhance security innovations. Lieberman also said that despite rumors that have been circling the Internet, there is no Internet "kill switch" in the bill that would allow the President to seize control of the Internet, and there is nothing in the bill that touches on the balance between intellectual property and free speech. He specifically pointed out that there is nothing related to the ill-fated SOPA and PIPA bills in his legislation.
Lieberman also said the bill was carefully crafted to protect privacy and ensure that it is aimed specifically at avoiding cyber attacks that could lead to mass casualties, damage to the economy or destruction of infrastructure necessary for the health and safety of citizens.
Lieberman's comments were echoed by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Me., who stressed lessons learned from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in which much of the blame could be placed on the lack of information sharing between law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Collins said the new law has specific provisions for information sharing that would help head off a cyber-terror attack.
Collins noted that the US government is already under daily attack from other nations and from terrorists. "They come from all directions," she said, noting that the urgency was underscored by intrusions that have already occurred at the Department of Defense and other agencies.