9/11 Commission warns: ‘Pattern seems to be repeating itself’

Members of the 9/11 Commission demanded this week that Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidShutdown risk grows over Flint Overnight Finance: Four days left to avert shutdown | Conservative group bucks spending bill | Lawmakers play catch-up on smartphone banking Reid blasts GOP senator over Flint 'hostage' comments MORE (D-Nev.) work to pass a cybersecurity bill before the end of the year.  

Citing major hacks against Target and Home Depot as well as newly discovered vulnerabilities in common security tools, members of the former government commission warned that the country could be hit with a major cyberattack if Congress does not act.

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“The al Qaeda threat did not manifest itself without warning on September 11, 2001,” commission Chairman Thomas Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton wrote in a letter on behalf of the commission.

“But we did not heed these warnings until it was too late. Unfortunately, that pattern seems to be repeating itself in the cyber realm,” they added.

Earlier this year, the 9/11 Commission sounded an alarm about cyber threats, warning that the country was practically asleep at the wheel.

In their letter this week, the commission wrote in favor of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), a controversial bill that would make it easier for private companies and federal agencies to share information about hackers and possible vulnerabilities. Supporters say the measure is critical to reducing blind spots on the cyber network, but opponents have warned it would allow too much personal information to be sent to places like the National Security Agency.

“This legislation would dramatically improve our nation’s cyber-readiness,” the commission wrote to Reid.

The Senate seems to have stalled on that bill, amid opposition from civil liberties advocates.

In addition to CISA, the commission also backed a handful of cyber bills out of the Senate Homeland Security Committee that would make it easier to hire skilled cyber staffers, update the government information security practices and authorize a cyber management center at the Department of Homeland Security. 

“Congress now has the opportunity to strengthen our nation’s cybersecurity defenses before a catastrophic attack strikes our people," the commission wrote. "We urge you to do so by enacting bipartisan cybersecurity legislation this year.”