The Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8th voted 12-3 to approve a cybersecurity bill authored by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). S. 2588, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), would essentially remove the legal restrictions that currently bar companies from sharing information with the government.

Under the legislation, the director of national intelligence would be allowed to share classified and unclassified information with businesses in the private sector; individuals and companies would be authorized to monitor computer networks of consenting customers and implement measures to block threats; and the federal government would be required to create a "portal," managed by the Department of Homeland Security, where cyber information would be shared.

Chairman Feinstein argued that without these changes, businesses and the federal U.S. would be subject to cyber threats that often result in losses of large amounts of money as well as the theft of Americans' personal information. "Cyber attacks present the greatest threat to our national and economic security today, and the magnitude of the threat is growing," 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."

Senator Chambliss agreed that it is time for Congress to address the global cyber threat. In a statement, he 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."

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 through a purely voluntary process and with significant measures to protect private information. As passed by the Committee, it does not affect intelligence programs, net neutrality, or the establishment of cyber standards.

The legislation has received important support in the U.S. House of Representatives, and in a sign of growing momentum, was endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce earlier this week. According to the Chamber, CISA would strengthen the protection and resilience of businesses' information networks and systems against increasingly sophisticated and malicious actors. The bill would also complement the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, which many business associations and companies are embracing and promoting with their constituents.

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.

J.C. Boggs