Senator urges vote on cyber law before 'cyber 9/11' occurs

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman is calling on his congressional colleagues to quickly vote on cybersecurity legislation to protect vulnerable critical networks before a “cyber 9/11" happens.

Following a demonstration by the Homeland Security Department of how easily an adversary can hack into the operating systems of a critical network, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) urged DHS be granted power to establish minimum cybersecurity standards for critical infrastructure systems.

In his June 13 floor speech, the senator cited an article that described how a "white hat" hacker from overseas was able to compromise the control panel of a South Houston, Texas, water utility in just 10 minutes.

The hacker, who calls himself pr0f, in November 2011 posted screen shots on of his intrusion to “prove his point that our nation’s Internet security is woefully lax and very little skill is needed to penetrate it,” Lieberman said.

The incident exemplifies “the urgent need to pass comprehensive cybersecurity legislation that includes provisions safeguarding our critical infrastructure,” the senator said.

Although the House has passed legislation that makes strides in securing federal information systems, Lieberman said the one he sponsors – the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 -- “is the better bill” because it addresses the need to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure. 

Passing the bipartisan effort needs to happen “so we can go to conference and iron out our differences with the House – and the time remaining to do this is grow¬ing short,” Lieberman said, referring to the lame duck session that is likely to focus on talks to reverse the sweeping budget cuts set to take effect Jan. 2, 2013.

“But we must get started because, I guarantee you Mr. President, that one day in the near future we will pass comprehensive cybersecurity legislation – but I fear it will be after an attack – a ‘cyber 9/11’ – where infrastructure is destroyed and lives lost,” Lieberman said.


About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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Reader comments

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 Scared

I sincerely hope this is NOT another bill that "we need to pass so we can read what's in it" situation. a badly concieved bill may grant extraordinary powers to DHS or its agencies that violate privacy and basic freedoms and rights of our citizens.

Thu, Jun 14, 2012 Another White Hat Earth

10 minutes my ass! The white hat had to have a team collecting information about the system weeks or months worth of work. If the white hat did not do any research beforehand then he had to have been given information about the system. Infrastructure systems are the most secure on the planet and they are usually compromised by insiders. An outsider would not attempt such a task to cut off his or her own water supply or electricity.

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