Senators call for action on cybersecurity

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The senators participating in the colloquy on Thursday have been involved in an bipartisan effort led by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) to find a compromise on provisions that would incentivize critical infrastructure to meet a set of security standards. The compromise effort is an attempt to find a middle ground on provisions in Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-Conn.) cybersecurity bill that would mandate critical infrastructure operators to meet security standards.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) emphasized that critical infrastructure measures won’t apply to every industry sector. He said senators involved in the compromise effort have been working hard to define “specifically, in the most limited way possible, what is critical to the ongoing daily operation of the country.”

“I hope the Senate turns to this issue and has a full and free debate,” he said.

Whitehouse thanked Sens. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) for their participation in the compromise discussions.

The senators noted that the recent storms that left areas of Washington, D.C., and Maryland without power should serve as a wake-up call for the upper chamber to act on cybersecurity. They said if a hacker wipes out utilities systems or financial networks, it would take longer to get those systems back up and running.

“That storm was an act of God. That storm was just a random meteorological event,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). “We know as members of the United States Senate that there are daily efforts at attacks on the United States far more devastating, far more far reaching than that transitory storm. And for us not to act, for us to fail to act in a bipartisan, thoughtful and responsible way would be the worst sort of dereliction of duty.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) noted “this kind of amassing of senatorial consensus, if I may put it that way, reflects the immediacy of this problem.”