The US Senate easily passed legislation aimed at bolstering the country’s defenses against cyber attacks.
The bill would expand liability protections to companies that choose to voluntarily share cyber-threat data with the government, Reuters reported.
It cleared the Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 74-21 with strong bipartisan support.
The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, or CISA, is a proposal that languished in the Senate for several years partly because of privacy groups’ concerns it would shuttle more personal information into the hands of the National Security Agency and other government spies.
But business interests, including the Chamber of Commerce, have argued an information-sharing law is necessary to allow the private sector to cooperate more closely with the government on detecting and minimizing cyber threats without fear of lawsuits.
Skeptics of CISA have said it would do little to prevent malicious breaches like the kind that crippled Sony Pictures last year, which the Obama administration publicly blamed on North Korea, or recent thefts of data from companies like Target, Home Depot or Anthem Insurance.
Even some of the bill’s supporters have conceded the bill is a small first step to shore up US cyber defenses, which are constantly under assault by hacking groups and foreign nation-states like China and Russia, according to government officials.
The bill’s passage through the Senate was a defeat for digital privacy activists who celebrated the passage in June of a law effectively ending the NSA’s bulk collection of US call metadata.
The curtailment of that program, which had been exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, represented the first significant restriction of the US government’s intelligence-gathering capabilities since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
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