Noting rising concern about the ongoing cyber attacks and threats, especially to the critical infrastructure, President Barack Obama and The White House have endorsed a cybersecurity bill that will strengthen the nation’s digital defenses. Since last year, a series of attacks was conducted on the critical infrastructure of the country, such as a water plant in Texas disconnected its control system from the Internet after a hacker posted pictures of the facility’s internal controls, hackers penetrated the networks of companies that operated country’s natural-gas pipelines, and increased attacks on the nuclear and chemical industries.
“Today we can see the cyber threat to the networks upon which so much of our modern American lives depend. We have the opportunity—and the responsibility—to take action now and stay a step ahead of our adversaries. For the sake of our national and economic security, I urge the Senate to pass the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 and Congress to send me comprehensive legislation so I can sign it into law”, said President Obama in a press release on The White House website.
Besides The White House, there are several associations who have backed the Cybersecurity Act including MPAA, RIAA and ESA–each representing content companies from the movie, music, and video games sectors. On the other side, there are some critics of the legislation too, such as ECA, EFF and ACLU. Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) has also put up an action alert on their website, stating problems with the legislation.
“Cybersecurity is a big industry right now and much of it is driven by expectations and outcomes,” says HackANGLE editor Kyt Dotson. “Legislation like CISPA punctures one of the major uses of security by encouraging open sharing of information that reveals private data about customers and users who should be protected by cyber security measures. Any legislation that doesn’t take into account that privacy is an emanation of security will doom any regulation.”
United States involvement in cyberwarfare
It’s also not that U.S. is only trying to safeguard itself from the cyber attacks, but is also actively involved in the cyber warfare.
The most prominent example is the Stuxnet worm, jointly produced by the United States and Israel in an attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. The code emerges from a program started during the Bush administration but continued under the auspex of President Obama. Stuxnet may be the first time the United States or any nation has attempted to use a virus to disable or sabotage another nation’s capabilities or infrastructure. Besides Stuxnet, Flame is also a parallel project, which means all fingers point out to United States. Lately, Secretary of Defense Leon Panneta seemed acknowledging or rather, not denying that the country led and collaborated on the development and deployment of the Stuxnet and Flame virus efforts. Looking at this, it’s presenting Obama’s image as a cyber warrior, who is proactive in both defending and attacking in cyber war.
Besides the recent Cybersecurity Act, a previously ill-thought-out cybersecurity bill, CISPA is still lurking. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is believed to be as bad as SOPA. According to EEF, the language in the CISPA bill could open the door for massive spying and would encourage ISPs, media sites, and possibly even cyberlockers to give up information on their users to the government under the guise of cybersecurity.
In fact, the bill also passed the U.S. House of Representatives and was forwarded by supporters as a way for companies to take part in national cybersecurity by sharing information about cyber threats, but the good thing is that is has not come into inaction and is still a ‘proposed law’. CISPA was proposed during Howard Schmidt’s tenure as a cybersecurity advisor and czar to the Obama Administration. Schimdt stepped down from the position in May, while Michael Daniel, a 17-year veteran of the Office of Management and Budget’s national security division took over the position. During his tenure, Schmidt led the creation of the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace and White House unveiled its first international strategy for cyberspace. Now, it is Daniel’s turn to approach problems and concerns about foreign powers looking to steal state secrets.