Lawmakers to oppose spending bill over cyber language

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

After four years, Congress finally appears set to pass cybersecurity legislation on data-sharing.

Under the cover of a late-night session of Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced a new version of the “omnibus” federal government funding bill that includes a version of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, outraging privacy advocates. WASHINGTON (AP) — A massive year-end spending measure moving through Congress includes a provision that will encourage companies to share cyber threat information with the government while providing them with liability protections for not acting on information received.After four years of wrangling, Congress appears on the verge of approving cybersecurity legislation that the White House and lawmakers hope will help reduce the threat to the nation from foreign government and criminal hackers.

Companies that share data with the U.S. government for cyber security purposes will get more protection from consumer lawsuits under a measure piggybacked onto a massive federal spending bill unveiled in Congress on Wednesday.Negotiated in secret and tucked in legislation thousands of pages long, Congress is about to pass an awful surveillance bill under the guise of “cybersecurity” that could open the door to the NSA acquiring much more private information of Americans. The measure, a culmination of several years of effort to pass a cyber bill, brings together three different versions that passed the House and Senate earlier this year with hefty bipartisan support. The cyber-security proposal, widely supported by the business community, amounts to Congress’s first major policy response to hacking attacks of the sort that have hit Target, Home Depot, JPMorgan Chase and Sony Pictures, as well as several government agencies. You may remember that Congress already passed the “Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act” (Cisa) last fall – a surveillance bill in cybersecurity’s clothing.

A long-standing critic of government overreach in surveillance, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), who voted against the Senate bill, issued a statement on Wednesday stating that it was a “bad bill when it passed” and “worse bill today.” “Americans deserve policies that protect both their security and their liberty. Still, they say it is a start to better protecting private sector and government computer systems from costly intrusions. “It is difficult to overstate the threat posed by bad cyber actors to our security, our privacy and our economy,” said Rep. Information-sharing legislation has failed in Congress for years amid privacy advocates’ concerns about broadening the surveillance of U.S. citizens by giving more data to the National Security Agency, the government’s electronic snooping department.

It essentially carved a giant hole in all our privacy laws and gave technology and telecommunications companies a free hand to give all sorts of private information – including our emails – to the government without any court process whatsoever, as long as there was some sort of vague rationale involving “cybersecurity”. This bill fails on both counts,” said Wyden, adding that “cybersecurity experts say CISA will do little to prevent major hacks and privacy advocates know that this bill lacks real, meaningful privacy protections.” Under the latest version, the bill creates the ability for the president to set up “portals” for agencies like the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence so that companies can hand information about potential threats directly to law enforcement and intelligence agencies instead of the Department of Homeland Security. The bill, he said, “is the most significant effort by Congress to address the cyber threat to date, and should now become law.” Intelligence committee leaders in both houses worked a last-minute compromise to insert the legislation into the must-pass omnibus spending bill—which is expected to be voted on by the House on Friday, and then by the Senate. “How would you feel if there was a cyberattack over Christmas, and we had an opportunity to pass this into law?” said Sen. Congress has been under pressure to act in the wake of high-profile hacks of U.S. companies and the federal government, including the massive attack on the U.S. Previously, the backchannel use of data could only occur in cases of “imminent threats,” while the new bill requires just a “specific threat.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation has strongly opposed cybersecurity bills over the past five years.

Office of Personnel Management that compromised the personal data of more than 21 million federal workers and the breach of the Internal Revenue Service, which allowed hackers to gain access to the records of about 334,000 taxpayers. If he does he has no choice but to veto this blatant attack on Internet security, corporate accountability, and free speech.” The bills were opposed not just by privacy advocates, but also civil society organizations, computer security experts, and many Silicon Valley companies.

Not that we’ll know anything about what the companies do hand over: the new version also carves out an exemption in the Freedom of Information Act that prevents anyone from requesting data on the type of information requested or the amount that’s being handed over. The bills also set different standards for how and when personal information would be scrubbed from the data shared, and which agency would serve as the collection portal. The bill also calls on businesses and the government to remove, or scrub, personal identifiable information from threat data before sharing that information. So remember this moment the next time we have another mass surveillance scandal that is only exposed – many years from now – through another leak. The bill authorizes a 7 percent spending increase for intelligence agencies and presses President Barack Obama to produce a strategy to defeat the Islamic State.

Before that, she reported for the Las Vegas Sun as its Washington Correspondent, the Associated Press in Jerusalem, the Chicago Tribune, Congressional Quarterly, and worked at NPR.

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