Cybersecurity

Senate signals piecemeal approach on cybersecurity

US Capitol

A draft cybersecurity bill from the Senate Commerce Committee puts the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in charge of developing guidelines for public-private collaboration on threats to critical infrastructure.

The July 10 draft, which has support from committee Chairman John Rockefeller, (D-W.Va.), and Ranking Member John Thune, (R-S.D.), differs from earlier Senate efforts at cybersecurity legislation on two key fronts.

First, it is rather modest in scope, covering critical infrastructure risks, cybersecurity research, and workforce development, and has some common elements with bills that have already passed in the House. Second, it proposes a voluntary rather than mandatory regime of information sharing between government and commercial infrastructure operators -- a position key senators adopted in 2012 only after trying unsuccessfully to require such sharing.

The new language updates NIST's charter to include the development of "a voluntary, industry-led set of standards, guidelines, and best practices, methodologies, procedures, and processes to reduce cyber risks to critical infrastructure." Under the draft, NIST would not be able to require industry to adopt specific solutions or IT products, or mandate specific guidelines for the design and development of products or services. This is largely consistent with President Obama's February executive order, which created a framework for the protection of critical infrastructure.

The bill also looks to train qualified personnel to work in government cybersecurity through a "scholarship-for-service" program that offers tuition for promising students with an aptitude in computer science and related fields, with the expectation that they will ply their skills on behalf of the government. The bill orders a study of existing cyber security education programs to find out whether their curricula match up with the demands of the field, as well as an analysis of impediments facing the federal government in attracting qualified cybersecurity personnel. Further, the bill directs the Office of Science and Technology Policy to expand its work in designing reliable networks, testing third-party software, protecting privacy, and securing the cloud.

The workforce and education components of the draft track fairly closely with measures passed by the House of Representatives in the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2013 and the Advancing America's Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act. Both those bills have been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the About.com online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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Reader comments

Mon, Jul 15, 2013 Cicero the Younger D.C.

Why didn't you provide a link to the draft ? This is indeed modest; but, it may be the first conferenceable vehicle since the House junk passed. In the face of having only the February EO and the bizarre NIST/DHS interagency process to fall back on, this may be a welcome development if there is actually prospect of passing something.

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