Finance industry groups back Senate cyber bill

Financial trade associations are throwing their weight behind a cybersecurity bill being considered by the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday.

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In a letter Monday, the Financial Services Roundtable, the American Bankers Association and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association urged the Senate panel to pass the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act.

The bill “further strengthens the ability of the private sector and the Federal government to work together to develop a more effective information sharing framework to respond to cyber threats,” the groups said.

“The threat of cyber attacks is a clear and present danger to our industry and to other critical infrastructure providers that we and the nation as a whole rely upon,” the letter said.

The bill — from Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Vice-chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) — would create protections for companies who respond to and share cyber threat information with each other and the federal government.

Privacy advocates have skewered the bill, saying it would threaten privacy for those companies’ customers and give federal agencies — including the National Security Agency (NSA) — and state and local governments warrantless access to new information without sufficiently limiting how they can use the information.

But in the Monday letter, the financial trade groups praised the bill, calling it “a very good step forward as it provides liability and antitrust protections while balancing the need for privacy protection.”

The groups pointed to their industry’s own work to improve coordination among members and the federal government to prevent cyber threats.

That industry work “alone is not enough and it is critical for Congress to take action to enhance, facilitate, and protect threat information sharing across sectors and with the Federal government,” they said.

They applauded the bill for “respect[ing] and build[ing] upon existing information sharing programs” and pledged to work with Committee leadership to address “issues that we believe require further clarification.”