Bipartisan cybersecurity legislation introduced in House committee

Members of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee introduced new bipartisan legislation last week that would protect critical infrastructure in the U.S. from cyberterrorism.

Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the committee chairman, Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the committee's ranking member, Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), the chairman of the Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies Subcommittee, and Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), the subcommittee's ranking member, introduced the National Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Protection Act of 2013 on December 11. H.R. 3696 would strengthen the cybersecurity of the nation's 16 critical infrastructure sectors and the federal government by strengthening, codifying and providing oversight of the cybersecurity mission of the Department of Homeland Security.

According to the committee, the NCCIP Act would strengthen the partnership between the federal government and private industry to raise the bar on cybersecurity while ensuring privacy and protecting civil liberties.

"Cyber attacks are a top national security and economic threat to the United States, and we cannot wait for a major strike before improving our defenses," McCaul said. "Americans could be greatly harmed by a cyber assault on our nation's power supply, water or banking systems. H.R. 3696 recognizes this growing threat and strengthens the capabilities of DHS - a civilian, transparent agency - to protect critical infrastructure, while prohibiting new regulations. From our oil and gas lines to our communications devices, the NCCIP Act will make every American safer and our information networks more secure."

The committee said that nation states and cyber hackers are ramping up their efforts to stew, disrupt or destroy critical U.S. assets. Cyber attacks on the nation's transportation systems, telecommunication networks, water systems, energy pipelines, power grids and banking system could cause catastrophic damage to national security, the economy and the safety of Americans.

"This bill represents a positive step forward to help foster a more secure cyberspace and keep America on the forefront of innovation," Thompson said. "Under this measure, the Department of Homeland Security would have the authority it needs to effectively execute its cybersecurity mission, a bipartisan priority."