Senate Proposes Federal Cybersecurity Bill and 'Czar'

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new bill proposed in the Senate would place federal cybersecurity under the aegis of the White House and also monitor private networks vital to national infrastructure.

The legislation was drafted by Senator Olympia Snow (D-Maine) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) The Washinton Post reported Wednesday.

The bill also calls for new regulations and standards regarding private network involved with U.S. infrastructure, including utilities and transit.

"People say this is a military or intelligence concern, but it's a lot more than that," Rockefeller told the newspaper. "It suddenly gets into the realm of traffic lights and rail networks and water and electricity."

The bill would create a National Cybersecurity Adviser, reporting directly to the president. This "czar" would be  empowered to shut down entire networks, including those that are private companies should a cyberattack occur. 

The legislation could be submitted today, the Post said. The bill is already being met with opposition and skepticism from the private sector.

Jim Dempsey, vice president for public policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology, — representing private companies and civil liberties advocates — told the Post standards are already in place and have been the "third rail of cybersecurity policy."  But he's concerned regulation could also hamper innovation by enforcing uniformity among private firms.

The legislation is based on report last year by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  Federal cybersecurity is currently split between The Pentagon and the National Security Agency, while the Department of Homeland Security assists private networks, the Post said.

The bill goes beyond foiling malicious hackers and seeks to address attacks on federal and private computer networks, which could severely damage the nation socially and economically.