Rockefeller calls for public-private action on cybersecurity

Senator's bill would mandate a comprehensive national strategy and unprecedented info sharing

Cyberattacks aren’t confined by governmental or national boundaries, and neither should cybersecurity programs, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), said recently in calling on government and industry to work together to meet the rapidly rising tide of attacks on U.S. information systems.

“National borders and traditional notions of security do not always apply to 21st--century threats, especially in the cybersecurity arena,” he said April 29 at the Business Software Alliance’s Cybersecurity Forum 2010 in Washington. “The idea that government alone can protect our citizens’ security within clear national borders is outdated. Therefore, to secure our country from cyberattacks we must have shared responsibility — public sector and private sector.”

Rockefeller’s bill (S. 773), co-sponsored with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), was approved by the Senate  Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee March 24. It builds on the idea that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility between the public and private sectors, Rockefeller said. “That’s what this whole bill is about,” he said. Rockefeller chairs the committee.


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The bill would require the president to work with the private sector to develop a comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy. It also calls for a cybersecurity advisory board of outside experts from industry, academic institutions and nonprofit advocacy organizations to advise the president on cybersecurity-related issues. In addition, it would create the office of a Senate-confirmed national security adviser to the president.

Debates about cybersecurity often come down to government versus market solutions, Rockefeller said. “It’s always one or the other,” he said. “That’s a very dangerous and false choice. The government cannot do this on its own. And neither can the private sector … we will only succeed if we do work together.”

“We are recognizing that traditional regulation will not work because a bureaucracy simply cannot keep up with the necessary pace of invention. Likewise, it should be clear that leaving our security solely to the market is also a failing strategy. Neither approach can combat the threats that we face alone and together,” he said.

Rockefeller added, “We want the private sector to take a lead. It’s very much the time to give the private sector the tools it needs to collaborate with the government and address this monumental challenge.”

He said the bill provides for unprecedented information sharing between government and the private sector, including access to classified threat information for “cleared, private sector executives.”

Rockefeller said he was optimistic that the legislation would get bipartisan support. “I don’t think this is going to be a partisan issue,” he said. “I am proud how far we’ve come but we do need to move forward," he added. "We need to get this done,"

 

About the Author

Richard W. Walker is a freelance writer based in Maryland.

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