Senate report calls for new U.S. cybersecurity effort

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A new report released this week by the U.S. Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee calls for a concerted national effort to overcome cybersecurity threats to the United States.

The report, called “National Cyber Security: Research and Development Challenges Related to Economics, Physical Infrastructure and Human Behavior,” asserts that critical national infrastructure, such as telecommunications and power distribution, oil and gas production, and water purification and distribution systems, are increasingly connected to the internet and therefore vulnerable to “new and unforeseen types of cyber disruption.”

The report was produced by the Institute for Information Infrastructure Protection (I3P), a consortium of national cybersecurity organizations, including academic research centers, government laboratories and nonprofit organizations.

“Because most of the nation's information technology infrastructure is in private hands, collaboration is essential to provide effective cybersecurity for the federal government and the entire nation,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, ranking member of the committee, said in a statement.

The report identified four initiatives necessary in the next five to 10 years, including the development of a coordinated and collaborative research agenda. It also called for new security metrics to help government and industry make informed decisions on design and implementation of security tools.

In regard to metrics, the report pointed out that “an outcome-based regulatory framework, such as exists for food safety or pollution controls,” would encourage more meaningful security developments.

In addition, the report stressed the importance of creating an effective legal and policy framework to encourage innovation, rather than impose prescriptive regulations. Development of an accurate, up-to-date database from the private and public sectors with information on IT attacks, penetrations, causes, and consequences is needed.

The report also asserted that information security systems must be made easy to use by non-IT professionals and that awareness and education campaigns should be directed at public and private sectors. In particular, it recommended that security training routinely should be taught in schools.

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