Legislative action needed now on cybersecurity, says US cyber chief

Congress must take action to establish the roles, standards and authorities that will guide government agencies responsible for defending U.S. infrastructure and computer networks from cyberattacks, said the head of the U.S. Cyber Command on July 9, reports the Associated Press.

Army Gen. Keith Alexander, in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, called for prompt legislative action before the nation is plunged into a crisis situation as a result of a devastating cyberattack, the story said.

Alexander joined a chorus of voices in recent months who have said that a major cyberattack on key U.S. computer systems is looming. "I do think that's coming our way, he said. "You can see this statistically; the number of attacks is growing."

To help thwart this threat, it is essential that the Defense Department gain real-time access to threat information from the private sector if it is to protect the nation’s cyberspace, reports GCN, a sister publication of Defense Systems.

“We need information sharing, in time and at network speed,” Alexander said. Because the United States is the largest user of online technology, “we are the most vulnerable and we need to do something about it.”

Alexander made a pitch during his presentation for cybersecurity legislation that would enable easier sharing of threat information between government and the private sector, and among agencies, while also trying to quiet fears that sharing with the NSA would open the door to domestic military spying, GCN said.

“We can protect civil liberties and privacy, and cybersecurity,” he said.

Although he did not cite any particular bill, Alexander said the two most important features of any legislation are information sharing and establishing standards of security for the nation’s critical infrastructure.

Such legislative action is necessary now while lawmakers can think calmly and rationally about securing American networks while protecting civil liberties and privacy, Alexander said, the National Journal reported.

“I’m afraid we’ll argue about this until something bad happens, and when something bad happens, we’ll jump way over here, where we don’t want to be,” Alexander said. “Let’s do it now. Let’s get it right.”

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