Lawmakers Take a Step Forward to Fight Cybercrime

Lawmakers Take a Step Forward to Fight Cybercrime

Last week, the Senate took a long-awaited vote in support of legislation to fight cybercrime.  The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) was passed by a vote of 74 to 21.  In short, the bill would facilitate sharing of information about cyberthreats between the private sector and government.  The strong vote of support belies what was a contentious debate that hinged on privacy concerns and split the tech industry.

The House of Representatives passed their two versions of cyberthreat-sharing legislation back in April (see blog:  What are Lawmakers Doing to Thwart Cybercrime?).  Now the challenge is to get the House and Senate on the same page by reconciling the differences in the three bills and passing the exact same version of the legislation so it can be sent to the President for his signature.  The President has indicated his support for the legislation and has encouraged swift progress toward a final bill, so ultimately it is likely to become law.

The privacy and civil liberties advocates (and some tech companies) that oppose the bill based on concerns about the possibility of personal information being handed over to the government will surely continue to make their case until the ink is dry on the final bill.  Even though several privacy amendments failed to pass, the authors are encouraged by the level of support they received on the Senate floor.

While all three cybersecurity sharing bills take a similar approach to encourage information sharing about cyberthreats by 1) giving companies some liability protections and 2) providing a clear process for sharing inforamtion; the bills differ on the specifics.

Look for a House-Senate conference committee to be appointed to work out the policy differences and negotiate a final bill.  Those discussions likely will include issues such as where the government will house the portal for sharing information, what type of information can be shared, and what standard companies and the government will have to meet in their efforts to remove personal information from shared data.

The 2015 legislative calendar is shrinking and crowded, and the negotiations on a final bill are expected to be tough.  A signing ceremony may have to wait until 2016.