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This article was published on May 17, 2012

    US cybersecurity standards for critical infrastructure remain mired in politics

    US cybersecurity standards for critical infrastructure remain mired in politics
    Alex Wilhelm
    Story by

    Alex Wilhelm

    Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]

    If you recall, one of the points argued on behalf of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) was that it was required, from a policy perspective, to keep the most important elements of the US’s infrastructure safe from those who might want to bring it down.

    However, in CISPA, the House assiduously fought any attempt to include any sort of standard, for this sort of security, as the House majority opposes such forms of regulation. Currently, The Hill reports, a Rep. Jim Langevin, is trying to pass “mandatory cybersecurity standards” for such things as “electrical grids and gas pipelines.”

    So far, his attempts have been stymied, with his amendment not yet even up for a vote by the Rules Committee to see if it can make it to the House floor.

    However, there’s another element in all of this that is well worth mentioning. CISPA, if it, or anything like it, is to reach the desk of the President, and thus have a chance of becoming law, a real fundamental difference must be overcome. The Senate’s leading cybersecurity bill, the Lieberman-Collins bill, contains mandates that the House rejects. Sen. McCain, opposed to the Lieberman-Collins law, said this some time back: “[the bill, if enacted, would give] unelected bureaucrats at the DHS [the ability to place] prescriptive regulations on American businesses.”

    That sort of vociferous complaint means that the leading Senate bill might have a hard time passing the Senate. Even more, to reconcile its tenets with CISPA’s, following which another House vote would be required, might be a fool’s errand as the House likely won’t pass anything that includes regulation, as we noted before.

    Therefore, what can pass the Senate, and the President, can’t get passed the House, and vice versa. So many digitally-aware activists fretted that the very structure of American democracy made it such that their voice would not be heard in Washington. Ironically, it might not matter, as the channels of Congress appear so gummed up that nothing may end up happening after all.