Wicker Stresses the Importance of Cybersecurity

Senate Bill Would Foster Greater Collaboration to Address Cyber Threats

August 10, 2015

Sony Pictures, United Airlines, JPMorgan, Healthcare.gov, and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) – the list goes on detailing the numerous private companies and government agencies that have been targeted by cyberattacks. The massive OPM hack – believed to have compromised the personal information of some 22 million Americans – is particularly alarming. Given the sensitive nature of the stolen data, such an intrusion at OPM poses serious threats to national security that could have long-term repercussions.

Sharing Information Without Compromising Privacy

Experts warn that these attacks are only going to get worse as cyber criminals become more sophisticated and more devices are connected to the Internet. The private sector and the federal government need to collaborate in order to combat the rise of cyber threats. A bill in the Senate would help facilitate this dialogue, encouraging the exchange of information that could identify a cyber threat and improve strategic cyber-defense mechanisms. These threats would go through a newly established portal at the Department of Homeland Security.

In addressing cyber vulnerabilities, however, protections are needed to guard the privacy of Americans. The legislation, titled the “Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act” (CISA), includes provisions limiting the use of an individual’s personal information. The bill would not put mandates on private companies but would allow them to participate solely on a voluntary basis. Americans should not have to worry that the tools used to detect cyber threats are infringing upon their civil liberties, and companies should not fear liability suits for monitoring their networks to strengthen cybersecurity.

Building on Bipartisan Support

The issue of cyberattacks is one of national importance. There is broad consensus that our country should be better prepared to detect this type of infiltration and promptly respond. In 2009, President Obama called cyber threats “one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation.” The unprecedented breach at OPM – described as one of the worst in U.S. history – demonstrates that the Administration has failed to meet this challenge adequately.

It is discouraging that Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) recently stalled efforts to debate and vote on cybersecurity legislation in the Senate. CISA earned overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this year. A version of the bill has also passed the U.S. House of Representatives.

It is worthwhile to note that cybersecurity and cyber warfare are becoming a vital part of our defense strategy, with increased funding devoted to cyber operations in recent years. Keesler Air Force Base is playing an integral role in that strategy. The base is home to the Air Force’s cyber training center, which is preparing America’s next generation of cyber warriors.

Championing Issues That Matter to Americans

The Senate has addressed a number of critical priorities under the new Republican leadership. Cybersecurity should be one of them. From a long-term highway bill and trade legislation to education reform and national defense, lawmakers are working to find practical solutions to issues that are important to Americans. We have passed more than 70 bipartisan bills so far this year.

The lesson that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” applies to the information and communication we conduct online. Our adversaries know the value of U.S. intelligence. The changing and complex cyber landscape is one that we cannot afford to overlook.