I Spy a Problem Child. Will Big Brother be Watching You?

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There are several cybersecurity bills scheduled to hit the busy Senate floor in the last days of July. Take your pick: the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), the Cyber Security Act of 2012 (CSA) and the Secure It Act, all with advocates and protesters. Which one is deemed to be the worst? Some argue the worst one so far was CIPSA, known as the cyber-spying legislation, passed in the House in a late session on April 26, 2012.

Call it a problem child, the CISPA bill seemed to have accelerated the frantic search for a solution to enlist cybersecurity protection that Americans could be happy with or could live with, without a threat against civil privacy in the use of the internet. The CISPA raised such a stink that SOBA (Stop Online Piracy Act) strike organizers put together the Internet Defense League, where they issued a statement saying “these bills would end online privacy, treating everyone like criminals instead of making us more secure.” (from ZDNet article, June 8, 2012 by Violet Blue)

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has been a strong opponent of the original CISPA, stating that this bill is “an overreaction to a legitimate and understandable fear.” In a passionate speech on the Congress floor on May 21, Senator Wyden said, “I believe these bills will encourage the development of an industry that profits from fear and whose currency is the Americans’ private data.”

Last week, legislators were busy working on provisions to make a cybersecurity bill more appealing to all sides. This sense of urgency was driven by the fact that Congress was approaching the August recess, so advocates needed to bring some sort of a cybersecurity bill to the Senate floor for vote even if there were issues to still work out.

Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) gained confidence last week, due to the changes made in his revised Cyber Security Act of 2012. These amendment changes were made to provide stronger privacy protections and to create a voluntary program for the private sectors to tighten their security measures within critical infrastructures in exchange for incentives.

Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) decided the cybersecurity bill would go to the floor before the defense authorization bill, in response to advocates’ desire to protect the nation against cyber attacks. Critics of these new revisions say that this would create more government spending without creating improved cybersecurity and raises the concern that the proposed voluntary program would quickly turn into a government regulatory program.

So the question remains: Who is responsible for protecting against the threat of cyber attacks in the United States? Is it the private sector that owns and runs critical infrastructures, such as the nations’ power, water, banking, transportation and communications systems? What about the federal security agencies that we pay tax dollars into? They say the threat of cyber-attacks is very real and supporters of these bills want to produce legislature to protect the Americans against a cyber 9/11.

Do Internet providers have to take this responsibility on, to protect against the threat of cyber attacks? Threats on the internet are faceless and could be miles away in a different country, threatening our own national security. Would a cybersecurity bill make us safer, giving the government and the critical infrastructure operators the right to access any of our records, internet searches and emails in response to a possible cyber-attack threat? Or would it create a breakdown of our constitutional rights?

The nation may find out soon if a cybersecurity bill passed as the summer legislation wraps up in Congress. Follow the story on http://thehill.com/ and goggle cybersecurity bill for more information.

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