Obama’s Cybersecurity Plan Would Burden Industry, Lawmaker Says

An Obama administration proposal for bolstering the nation’s defenses against a cyber attack would give the Homeland Security Department too much power over private industry, a U.S. lawmaker said today.

“The president’s plan gives the Department of Homeland Security unfettered authority to regulate private industry,” Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican and chairman of a House Judiciary Committee panel on the Internet, said today at a hearing on cybersecurity. “Do the American people really want their regulatory agencies turned into quasi-fiefdoms?”

The administration’s proposal released May 12 calls for Homeland Security to work with industry to find vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure such as electrical grids and financial networks. The department would define what companies would qualify as “critical infrastructure” and therefore be subject to more oversight.

“The regulatory process is a slow one, whereas the escalating cyber threats our country faces are extremely dynamic problems,” Goodlatte said. “Cybersecurity threats and online technologies change quickly -- so quickly that any regulations for cybersecurity could be outdated before they are finalized.”

Congress needs to create incentives for the private sector to do more to protect itself from cyber attacks, Goodlatte said. He’s currently writing legislation to address his concerns.

U.S. lawmakers introduced about 50 cybersecurity measures in the last session of Congress. Those measures include at least eight bills that seek to boost security at energy and utility companies.

The administration’s proposal would jump-start efforts in Congress to update U.S. laws in response to the increased threat of cyber attacks capable of crippling business and government operations.

The urgency of advancing a cybersecurity bill has been heightened by recent assaults, including last month’s attack on networks operated by Sony Corp. (6758) The Senate’s Sergeant at Arms reported last year that computer systems of Congress and executive branch agencies are probed or attacked 1.8 billion times per month, costing about $8 billion annually.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kelly Riddell in Washington at Kriddell1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Allan Holmes at aholmes25@bloomberg.net

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