FCC official endorses cybersecurity regulation

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The legislation would give the Homeland Security Department the power to require that critical systems, such as electrical grids, meet minimum cybersecurity standards.

Barnett made the comment in response to questioning from Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.). Fiona Alexander, an associate administrator at the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, testified that she also supports the measure.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and other Republicans have criticized the Lieberman-Collins bill, saying it would create new bureaucracy and burden businesses. They have introduced their own cybersecurity bill, the Secure It Act, which focuses on encouraging information sharing about cyber threats between the private sector and the government and would toughen penalties for cyber crimes.

Reps. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced the Secure It Act in the House on Tuesday. 

During Wednesday's hearing, Bono Mack argued that the government should be a "facilitator, not a regulator" of cybersecurity.

But supporters of the Lieberman-Collins bill warn that without minimum standards for critical systems, the country is at risk of suffering a catastrophic cyber attack.

The White House has endorsed the Lieberman-Collins bill and has warned Congress to not resort to "half-measures" to beef up cybersecurity.