Sens. Kerry, Gillibrand seeking new 'ambassador-at-large' for cybersecurity

"This legislation, which is part of the International Cybercrime Reporting and Cooperation Act I introduced last month, would ensure that America works with the governments of foreign countries to foster a global response to cyberattacks," Gillibrand later said in a statement. "Our legislation will make America safer by making our cyber diplomacy more robust, and coordinating with our partners in the international community.”

“Just as the physical safety of America is under constant threat from those who would do us harm, we are also engaged in a battle over the control of information in cyberspace and need to build better defenses against potential attacks on our infrastructure,” added Kerry, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee that will take the first crack at the legislation. “This bill is the first step to better organize U.S. efforts to develop a coordinated strategic approach to international cyberspace and cybersecurity issues by designating a single diplomat responsible for U.S. cyber policy overseas.”

Lawmakers have increasingly turned their attention to the issue of cybersecurity this year, in part because of a series of high-profile attacks that have targeted countless U.S. businesses, including Google, in the opening months of 2010.

Another bill pending Senate action, shepherded by Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), would establish a Senate-confirmed position to handle domestic cybersecurity issues, while tasking the White House with managing the federal response in the event of a cybersecurity emergency.

By contrast, the bill Hatch and Gillibrand introduced in March focuses more on international hacker havens. Their legislation would require the White House to report periodically about "countries of cyber concern" to congressional lawmakers. Those states that failed to crack down on those hackers could ultimately lose broad portions of their U.S. aid.

A House version of that anti-cybercrime bill, spearheaded by Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) and a handful of other lawmakers, also includes an authorization to create a new State Department position to handle cybersecurity issues. Hearings on both efforts are likely to occur in the coming months.