Senate bill creates White House cybersecurity adviser

A bill introduced Wednesday in the U.S. Senate would establish the position of national cybersecurity adviser, who would report to President Obama.

In addition to creating the "cyberczar" position, the bill, introduced by Sen. John (Jay) Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, is designed to address the nation's vulnerability to cybercrime, global espionage and digital attacks.

The bill does not just focus on the federal government. It calls on the administration to report back to Congress in a year on any recommendations for enforcing security standards for private industry, as well as the public sector. This ostensibly would be part of an effort to establish an integrated public-private partnership to coordinate cybersecurity efforts.

“It's an understatement to say that cybersecurity is one of the most important issues we face. The increasingly connected nature of our lives only amplifies our vulnerability to cyberattacks and we must act now,” Rockefeller said in a statement.

Some proposals in the bill parallel recommendations made last year by the Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

“The bill does address a number of different recommendations that were made,” Randy Sabett, an attorney who served on the commission, told on Wednesday. “The creation of a position in the Executive Office of the President addresses the shortcomings of the current distributed approach to cybersecurity in the U.S. government.”

Under the bill, the national cybersecurity adviser would serve as the lead official on all U.S. computer security matters, coordinating with the intelligence community, as well as civilian agencies. 

“The cyberczars in the past had a lot of responsibilities, but inadequate authority,” Sabett said. “This raises the level of authority over cybersecurity to the Executive Office.”

Other broad provisions of the bill include measures to:

  • promote public awareness and protecting civil liberties;
  • remake the relationship between government and the private sector on cybersecurity; and
  • foster innovation and creativity in cybersecurity to develop long-term solutions.

“The bill is comprehensive in its approach in that it touches on many shortcomings in the federal government's cybersecurity operations,” Sabett said.



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