Washington—Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) today announced committee approval of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, a bill to improve the nation’s cybersecurity. The vote was 12-3.

The legislation, authored by Feinstein and Chambliss, expands information shared about cybersecurity threats and defensive mechanisms between the government and companies and within the private sector in order to combat the rapid increase in attacks on computer systems that have resulted in the theft of millions of Americans’ personal information and hundreds of millions of dollars in losses for businesses large and small.

“Cyber attacks present the greatest threat to our national and economic security today, and the magnitude of the threat is growing,” Senator Feinstein said. “Every week we hear about the theft of personal information from retailers and trade secrets from innovative businesses, as well as ongoing efforts by foreign nations to hack government networks. This bill is an important step toward curbing these dangerous cyber attacks.”

Feinstein continued: “To strengthen our networks, the government and private sector need to share information about attacks they are facing and how best to defend against them. This bill provides for that sharing through a purely voluntary process and with significant measures to protect private information.”

“It is past time for Congress to address the global cyber threat facing our nation,” Senator Chambliss said. “American businesses are attacked daily by criminals seeking trade secrets or customer’s credit card information, while the government defends our systems against cyber attacks from criminal organizations, nation-states, and terrorists seeking to harm and kill Americans. In order to protect ourselves from these attacks, we must all work together.”

Chambliss continued: “The legislation passed out of committee today is a strong, bipartisan bill that encourages the private sector and the government to share information voluntarily about these threats, without fear of frivolous lawsuits and without unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles. The cyber threats to our nation are all too real. The Senate should take up and pass this bill before the August recess.”

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act:

  • Requires the director of national intelligence to increase the sharing of classified and unclassified cyber threat information to the private sector, consistent with the protection of sources and methods.
  • Authorizes individuals and companies to monitor their own computer networks and those of their consenting customers for cyber threats and to implement countermeasures to block those threats.
  • Authorizes the voluntary sharing of cyber threat information by individuals and companies with each other and with the government. Such sharing is for cybersecurity purposes only and companies must take appropriate measures to protect against the sharing of personally identifying information.
  • Puts in place liability protections for individuals and companies that appropriately monitor their networks or share cyber information.
  • Requires federal government procedures for the receipt, sharing and use of cyber information. This includes the establishment of a “portal” managed by the Department of Homeland Security through which electronic cyber information will enter the government and be shared with other appropriate federal entities.
  • Limits the government’s ability to use information it receives to cyber-related purposes to ensure it does not engage in inappropriate investigations or regulation.
  • Requires reports on the implementation of these authorities by the heads of federal departments, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and relevant inspectors general.

The committee’s adopted version of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act will be introduced later this week once amendments are incorporated.

Following is a list of amendments adopted by the committee today:

  • A managers’ amendment by Senators Feinstein and Chambliss to further strengthen privacy protections in the bill, clarify authorization language and make technical changes.
  • An amendment by Senator Collins allowing cyber threat information obtained under the bill to be used for the protection of minors.
  • An amendment by Senator Collins requiring that the attorney general procedures in the bill conform to the “Fair Information Practice Principles,” as included in the president’s 2011 cyber strategy.
  • An amendment by Senator Collins amending a provision in the fiscal year 2013 defense authorization bill to allow the Department of Defense to share cyber threat information it receives from defense contractors.
  • An amendment by Senator Heinrich requiring that the attorney general determine a specific limitation on how long cyber information can be retained.
  • An amendment by Senator Risch including the national laboratories among agencies to be consulted by the director of national intelligence as he develops procedures for sharing government information with the private sector.
  • An amendment by Senator Warner requiring a report from the director of national intelligence on cyber intelligence cooperation.

The legislation is the product of years of briefings and meetings with federal officials charged with cybersecurity responsibilities and dozens of meetings with private sector representatives and privacy advocates. The focus of the bill is narrowly on cybersecurity information sharing and it does not affect intelligence programs, net neutrality or the establishment of cyber standards.

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