Bipartisan Push for Increased Cybersecurity Comes on Strong

Posted on Jul 31, 2015

The seeming incongruity between statements made by federal legislators about cybersecurity and their inaction on passing pending legislation may soon come to an end. Following the major breach at the federal Office of Personnel Management, a group of Democrat and Republican senators have made a major push to improve government defenses and even place the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on the offensive against cybercriminals in some instances. The decision to push ahead on these measures may also resurrect another cybersecurity bill that had previously stalled in the legislature.

"It's not surprising that senators are pushing for better and more comprehensive protections."

Pushing back against attacks
With the OPM breach and other cyberattacks fresh in the minds of many legislators, it's not surprising that senators are pushing for more comprehensive protections. The focus on expanding the powers of the DHS, which has much of the authority over hacking events in the U.S., would change the current atmosphere as it relates to cyberthreat detection and response. According to The Associated Press, the proposed changes would move the DHS from a response-only role to one where the agency could actively prevent hackers from making their way into sensitive databases. While the proposed changes wouldn't stop such attacks, they would put DHS in a much better position to move proactively.

Standardization of protections
Political news site The Hill covered the proposed improvements in depth, noting that there isn't any sort of normalization or codification of DHS's authority over government websites, although it does have a mandate to protect any domains with a .gov address. However, that doesn't mean it can easily investigate any problem related to hacking of a federal government agency.

"There is no minimum standard," said Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat sponsoring the bill in Congress. "This is all done on a voluntary basis. And every agency has got their reason why they, in particular, can't comply. This voluntary system has resulted in an inconsistent patchwork of security across the whole federal government."

The Hill reported recent informational breaches have pushed legislators and others to change the government's traditional approach to cybersecurity. The Internet era has been marked by a relatively slow process to keep such efforts current, meaning federal agencies often lag behind the latest techniques used by hackers. The shift in the proposed legislation would improve the ability of the DHS to respond in a more timely and effective manner.

What does it mean for businesses?
The recent activity on Capitol Hill has mostly centered around protecting government agencies, but the resulting changes could have major impacts on large groups of businesses. Companies that do business with the federal government could be more confident about sharing information going forward, and that added protection would go a long way to securing deals between the public and private sectors. Another aspect to consider is the attachment of the new powers for the DHS to the currently stagnant Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act. That bill offers direct protections to businesses in terms of a central clearinghouse for information about cyberattacks and increased coordination with federal authorities to deal with the aftermath of those efforts. It's likely this recent alteration will improve the bill's chances of moving through the legislature and becoming a law.

More complete protection
Businesses can't rely on the efforts of the federal government to completely protect their valuable stores of information from outside attacks. With NC4 Mission Center, companies have confidence that their sensitive data is protected. And even with the improvements likely to occur for federal agencies, the use of NC4 Mission Center can bolster security for government organizations of all types.

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