The legislation would give the Homeland Security Department regulatory authority over companies with computer systems crucial to the nation's economic and physical security. It would require that the companies take adequate precautions to safeguard their systems and would increase information-sharing about cyber threats between the private sector and the government.
President Obama issued his own cybersecurity proposal in May and urged Congress to move forward with legislation during his State of the Union address last month.
Although the two proposals are similar in many respects, one crucial difference is that the Senate bill would give Homeland Security the power to fine companies that ignore the cybersecurity standards. The White House proposal would have relied on publicly shaming the companies rather than levying civil penalties.
"We need the Congress to provide our professionals and the private sector with the tools they need to effectively address the full range of cyber threats, while respecting the values of freedom, openness, and innovation," Hayden said. "As noted in the President's State of the Union Address, the American people expect us to ensure the nation’s critical infrastructure is protected, and quickly enacting comprehensive legislation would be an incredibly important step."