US Senate shoots down Cybersecurity Act of 2012

Despite being endorsed by President Obama, the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 has been blocked by the US Senate.

The bill was aimed at enhancing the security and resiliency of the cyber and communications infrastructure of the United States and, among other things, would have allowed a the Department of Homeland Security to have access to the computer systems of all private companies that controlled infrastructure deemed critical for the normal day-to-day running of the country and the servicing of its citizens, in order to assess cyber risks.

First introduced back in February 2012 by independent Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman and four of his Democratic colleagues, it was modified before being presented to the Senate because the Electronic Frontier Foundation pointed out a number of problems with the wording defining some key issues.

Consequently, the term “cybersecurity threat” was more narrowly defined in order to exclude constitutionally-protected free speech and terms of service violations, the reporting of cyber security incidents related to the systems in question was made mandatory, and the participation of critical infrastructure owners in national cybersecurity programs was made voluntary instead of required.

It was also defined that the data collected under cybersecurity purposes would not be share with law enforcement and would not be used to prosecute unrelated crimes, and that only civilian agencies would be in charge of US’ cybersecurity systems.

Still, some politicians were against the law for ideological reasons since it would allow government and its agencies to interfere with private companies, while the owners and the operators of the infrastructure in question were more concerned with the costs of setting and keeping of the security standards the law would have required of them.

According to the National Journal, Senator Lieberman didn’t hide his disappointment at the result of the vote, saying that this was one of those days when he wasn’t proud of the United States Senate.

Republican minority Leader Mitch McConnell retorted by saying that they all recognize the problem, and that no one doubts that the nation’s cyberdefenses need strengthening, but that they weren’t willing to let the majority leader “steamroll” the bill through senate.


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