Week ahead: Cyber bill inches toward Senate floor

Cyber watchers will be keeping a close eye on the Senate as a stalled cybersecurity bill creeps closer to the floor.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) — intended to bolster the exchange of cyber threat data between companies and the government — has long been on the verge of making it to the upper chamber floor, but been continuously delayed by privacy concerns and party squabbles over procedure.

But now that Congress has cleared the deck of the necessary spending bills to keep the government open, many expect the Senate to turn to cybersecurity.

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While industry groups and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers argue that CISA is necessary to help better understand and thwart hackers, privacy advocates believe the measure will simply shuttle more of Americans' sensitive data to the government.

Before the upper chamber departed for its annual August recess, Democrats and Republicans struck a deal to structure debate on the first 22 amendments to be offered on CISA.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellHomeland Security chief says 21 states have sought cybersecurity assistance 9/11 bill is a global blunder that will weaken US efforts abroad States urged to bolster election security MORE (R-Ky.) had wanted to push the bill through in the waning days before the monthlong break, but ran out of time as both sides clashed over how to limit the amendments.

According to multiple people with knowledge of the talks, Senate staffers have been hammering out agreements on how to handle floor debate for most of the 22 amendments lined up for consideration.

Senate leaders are also trying to minimize debate time by potentially combining several offerings and packaging them with the all-encompassing manager’s amendment from Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard BurrDem groups invest big in Bayh in Ind. Senate race The Trail 2016: Fight night Poll finds races for president, Senate tight in North Carolina MORE (R-N.C.) and Ranking Member Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Senators already eyeing changes to 9/11 bill after veto override WH tried to stop Intel Dems' statement on Russian hacking: report MORE (D-Calif.), who are backing the bill.

But a few of the more controversial amendments are still holding up the overall negotiations, several people said.

Regardless, it’s unlikely the bill will see the light of day until at least later in the week. The Senate still has to deal with a defense authorization bill, which is scheduled for a procedural vote on Tuesday.

The House passed its companion bills back in April.

Elsewhere, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday will look at the threat of a North Korean cyberattack and how the U.S. would respond. Earlier this year, the U.S. levied sanctions on the secretive Far East Asian country for conducting the now-infamous Sony Pictures hack.

Cyber specialists see North Korea as a rapidly rising digital threat to the U.S., although nowhere near on par with major cyberspace adversaries like Russia, China and Iran.

Over in the House, a House Homeland Security subcommittee on Thursday will investigate whether the country's ports would be resilient to a cyberattack. The hearing comes as lawmakers, defense and intelligence leaders, and policy experts debate what constitutes an act of cyber warfare, and whether the U.S. is equipped to defend itself in cyberspace.

 

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The tech industry and privacy advocates are scrambling to oppose CISA: http://bit.ly/1JKgnnA

The hackers who attempted to crack then-Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonWhat will be October’s surprise? Poll: Half of Trump supporters don't trust integrity of election Gingrich: 'No excuse ever' for 3 a.m. tweeting MORE’s private email server were most likely part of an Eastern European cyber crime syndicate: http://bit.ly/1hfHqQN

Burr and Feinstein took aim at CISA opponents in a Friday statement: http://bit.ly/1GoIkRy

Roughly 15 million of T-Mobile’s U.S. customers may have been exposed in a data breach at one of its vendors: http://bit.ly/1hgbbB3