Senate Tries to Act on Cybersecurity Bill Before Summer Recess

Posted on Aug 07, 2015

Despite a growing level of recognition from the White House, the business world and the general public, cybersecurity efforts on the part of the federal legislative branch have been inconsistent. While many individual senators have expressed support for efforts to better protect businesses, government agencies and the individuals who interact with them from the harm of data theft and related attacks, action on such issues is lacking. Of the two cybersecurity bills that received the most consideration in 2015, neither has passed. Both the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) and the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) have moved back and forth between the floors of the legislature and committees without a final resolution.

Potential movement on the issue
While neither bill has been put up for a successful vote, there is some potentially beneficial news related to one. CISA was recently picked back up by the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is said to have that bill on his agenda for action before the legislators take a late summer recess, according to government news source the National Journal. With that break quickly approaching, the Senate would have to act on the bill during the first week of August for McConnell's plan to come to fruition.

Process problems
While CISA hasn't been universally approved or lauded by senators, it gained a generally positive response. The issue with the bill isn't so much about the original text gathering the requisite number of votes for it to pass, but contention over potential attachments or riders added on to it, the National Journal said. This is a common practice in the legislature, as it allows coalitions or individual congressmen to add smaller and sometimes unrelated components to a bill. The end goal is often benefiting those legislators' individual constituencies. However, these riders can stall bills if their provisions are controversial or otherwise not supported by enough voters on both sides of the aisle. As both the Democrats and Republicans want to add amendments to the existing version of CISA, concerns about passing the bill abounds despite McConnell's efforts.

"The major conflict related to bill amendments is one of privacy, a common concern in the cybersecurity realm."

Conflicts arise, delays develop
The Washington Post said the major conflict related to bill amendments is one of privacy, a common concern in the cybersecurity realm. Some senators, as well as organizations and individuals in the general public, believe CISA would benefit both the government and private businesses but that it needs stronger privacy protections related to personal information. Additionally, some Democrats are less than pleased that the Republican-led Senate wants to push through the bill quickly instead of putting it up for more consideration.

Beyond the clashes across the aisle and different perspectives of senators, a more practical issue also exists. If CISA passes, it would have to be somehow combined with similar legislation passed by the House of Representatives, according to The Washington Post. In other words, even if the act passes before the congressional holiday, it would still need more work before President Obama could sign it into law.

Proactive decision-making
CISPA, if it indeed becomes a law, will provide some important protections for businesses in terms of intelligence sharing and threat assessment. However, companies can't only rely on federal law and action to protect their interests. Businesses that take a proactive approach to protecting their valuable data will be in a far more defensible position than those that don't. A strong plan for improving internal cybersecurity, along with the right systems and employee training, makes organizations active players in their own defense efforts.

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