Rogers: Senate Must Prevent Cyber-Catastrophe

Posted July 20, 2012 at 4:02pm

As the role of technology in our lives becomes increasingly complicated and our technological dependence grows, the cyber-threat from state and nonstate actors grows at an even faster rate.

From its earliest days, the Internet was designed with collaboration and interoperability in mind, and it has grown into a global system of interconnected networks that better connects us, better informs us and maximizes our efficiency. Barely an hour passes that we don’t connect to the Internet to perform some task that makes our lives a little bit easier.

Unfortunately, no one imagined in the early days of the Internet how some might maliciously subvert that open architecture to commit crimes and espionage, and security was an afterthought. Government and private industry are working hard today to fix the many vulnerabilities that remain, but all of these life-changing tools are at risk because the Internet is under attack.

Unbridled industrial cyber-espionage is costing hundreds of thousands of American jobs and billions of dollars under a government that has simply admired this problem from afar for far too long. Foreign nation states such as China and Russia are investing major resources to attack our job creators in an attempt to undermine our economic engine.

The No. 1 mission of the federal government is to provide for a national defense that protects its citizenry. In the 21st century, that means staying in front of technological threats in addition to those that are conventional.

After assuming the role of chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, I began investigating the nature of the threat. I discovered that the solution does not lie with government, but with the private sector. That’s why I introduced bipartisan legislation that provides authority to private-sector entities to defend their own networks and those of their corporate customers, as well as to share cyber-threat information with others in the private sector and with the federal government on a purely voluntary basis.

My Democratic ranking member on the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), and I worked hand-in-hand on this legislation, which is virtually unheard of these days. Our concise cyber-sharing bill passed the House on April 28 by a bipartisan vote of 248-168.

By permitting the private sector to expand its own cyber-defense efforts and to employ classified information to protect systems and networks, this legislation will enhance cybersecurity and the networks we all rely upon without costing the taxpayers a dime.

I am proud of this legislation because it was drafted in the open with revisions posted regularly on the Internet with the input of hundreds of private-sector companies, trade groups, privacy and civil liberties advocates and the executive branch, and it enjoys the support of virtually every sector of the economy. We wanted to get it right, and we believe we have succeeded in crafting a bill that will protect our resources and infrastructure while also protecting Americans’ privacy rights.

Strong privacy protections are included in the bill to ensure that private information remains just that, private. The bill strictly limits the government. It cannot demand any cyber-threat information from the private sector or withhold government information to force the private sector to share information. Moreover, information shared by the private sector must be protected from disclosure and can be used only for cyber or national security purposes.

As we look toward the Senate for action, we’ve sent them a bill that addresses the critical issue of information-sharing with an overwhelming bipartisan vote. There may be controversy over other cybersecurity issues, but there is a clear consensus on information sharing. The Senate must act now.

It’s only a matter of time before a catastrophic event forces our hand.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.