The Lieberman-Collins cybersecurity bill moved one step closer to passing Thursday afternoon. The Senate voted in favor of a motion to proceed 84-11 after a lengthy and contentious debate. The bill now faces additional changes before being brought up for a full vote.
The Cybersecurity Act, or CSA, is the Senate’s attempt to address cybersecurity reform. Senate leadership considers such reform a priority for the current term that ends in January.
As written, the CSA would set up an optional program where businesses deemed critical to the national infrastructure (such as power grids) would be asked to meet cybersecurity standards set by a group of government agencies. It would also establish a protocol for government agencies and businesses to share cybersecurity threat information with one another.
The bill originally called for government-mandated cybersecurity standards for key infrastructure with no opt-out. Senate Rebublicans considered that to be an example of excessive regulation. The opt-in compromise was the key factor in reducing Republican opposition.
The CSA has support from some technology companies including Cisco and Oracle, while IBM is against it. Additionally, Internet privacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation have warned that some of the bill’s language is dangerously vague.
Should the CSA eventually pass the Senate, it will move to the House, which has already passed a very different cybersecurity bill – the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA. Discrepancies between the bills would have to be worked out by the two chambers before they would be able to send it to President Obama.
The differences between the Senate and House bills?
CISPA is focused on information sharing between the government and businesses, and includes no federally-mandated cybersecurity standards. It’s also opposed by the White House. President Obama has given a tentative thumbs-up to the Senate’s bill, with the caveat that the latest version dropped “some of the key provisions of earlier bills.”