New CRS Reports Highlight Legislation for Cybersecurity

As noted in Eric Ficher, Federal Laws Relating to Cybersecurity: Discussion of Proposed Revisions, (June 29, 2012) (CRS Report R42114) (full-text), cybersecurity is a “somewhat fuzzy subject.” Yet it has become the focus of considerable regulatory and legislative attention.

Dr. Fischer, Senior Specialist in Science and Technology, has provided a comprehensive roadmap for CRS which provides some context for the competing legislative approaches to this important but under-reported topic.

As the report notes, “There is as yet no overarching framework legislation in place, but many enacted statutes address various aspects of cybersecurity.” The report reviews proposed changes to 28 separate laws from the Posse Comitatus Act of 1879 to the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. He reports that “more than 50 statutes address various aspects of cybersecurity either directly or indirectly, but there is no overarching framework legislation in place.” So the report provides an important outline of the disparate efforts to address cybersecurity in congress.

The report identifies ten broad areas for the legislative proposals:

  • national strategy and the role of government,
  • reform of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA),
  • protection of critical infrastructure (including the electricity grid and the
  • chemical industry),
  • information sharing and cross-sector coordination,
  • breaches resulting in theft or exposure of personal data such as financial
  • information,
  • cybercrime,
  • privacy in the context of electronic commerce,
  • international efforts,
  • research and development, and
  • the cybersecurity workforce.

Not to be outdone, the companion report provides even more specific information regarding recent legislative efforts. Rita Tehan, Cybersecurity: Authoritative Reports and Resources (July 3, 2012) (CRS Report R42507) (full-text) provides a comprehensive overview. Together, the two reports provide a critical roadmap to the present legislative efforts. Tehan’s introduction provides a glimpse at the scale of the activity:

“Cybersecurity is a sprawling topic that includes national, international, government, and private industry dimensions. More than 40 bills and resolutions with provisions related to cybersecurity have been introduced in the first session of the 112th Congress, including several proposing revisions to current laws. In the 111th Congress, the total was more than 60. Several of those bills received committee or floor action, but none have become law. In fact, no comprehensive cybersecurity legislation has been enacted since 2002.”

Fischer notes the importance of these changes. As he notes, “for more than a decade, various experts have expressed increasing concerns about cybersecurity, in light of the growing frequency, impact, and sophistication of attacks on information systems in the United States and abroad. Consensus has also been building that the current legislative framework for cybersecurity might need to be revised.”

Additional coverage can be found by ITWiki, PrivacyLives, and Justice Information Sharing.