Federal Laws Relating to Cybersecurity: Discussion of Proposed Revisions

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.
The complex federal role in cybersecurity involves both securing federal systems and assisting in protecting nonfederal systems. Under current law, all federal agencies have cybersecurity responsibilities relating to their own systems, and many have sector-specific responsibilities for critical infrastructure.
More than 50 statutes address various aspects of cybersecurity either directly or indirectly, but there is no overarching framework legislation in place. While revisions to most of those laws have been proposed over the past few years, no major cybersecurity legislation has been enacted since 2002.
Recent legislative proposals, including many bills introduced in the 111th and 112th Congresses, have focused largely on issues in 10 broad areas (see “Selected Issues Addressed in Proposed Legislation” for an overview of how current legislative proposals would address issues in several of those areas):
- 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.
For most of those topics, at least some of the bills addressing them have proposed changes to current laws. Several of the bills specifically focused on cybersecurity have received committee or floor action, but none have become law. In the absence of enactment of cybersecurity legislation, the White House has reportedly considered issuing an executive order, but that has been opposed by some Members of Congress.
Comprehensive legislative proposals on cybersecurity that have received considerable attention in 2012 are The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (CSA 2012, S. 2105, reintroduced in revised form as S. 3414), recommendations from a House Republican task force, and a proposal by the Obama Administration. They differ in approach, with S. 2105 proposing the most extensive regulatory framework and organizational changes, and the task force recommendations focusing more on incentives for improving private-sector cybersecurity. An alternative to S. 2105 and S. 3414, S. 3342 (a refinement of S. 2151), does not include enhanced regulatory authority or new federal entities, but does include cybercrime provisions. S. 3414 was debated in the Senate but failed a cloture vote.
Several narrower House bills have been introduced that address some of the issues raised and recommendations made by the House task force. Four passed the House the week of April 23:
- Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2011 (H.R. 2096), which addresses federal cybersecurity R&D and the development of technical standards;
-  Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (H.R. 3523), which focuses on information sharing and coordination, including sharing of classified information;
- Advancing America’s Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act of 2012 (H.R. 3834), which addresses R&D in networking and information technology, including but not limited to security; and
-  Federal Information Security Amendments Act of 2012 (H.R. 4257), which
addresses FISMA reform.
One was ordered reported out of the full committee but did not come to the floor:
- Promoting and Enhancing Cybersecurity and Information Sharing Effectiveness Act of 2011 or PRECISE Act of 2011 (H.R. 3674), which addresses the role of the Department of Homeland Security in cybersecurity, including protection of federal systems, personnel, R&D, information sharing, and public/private sector collaboration in protecting critical infrastructure;
Together, those House and Senate bills address most of the issues listed above, although in
different ways. All include proposed revisions to some existing laws covered in this report.
Eric A. Fischer

Publication Date:
November 9, 2012

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