Legislation is needed immediately

Getty

Since taking the helm as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence nearly four years ago, I made it a priority to bring light to a little noticed issue that was actually one of the greatest threats America faces today: the unrelenting cyberattacks on our networks and personal data.

Representing one-sixth of our economy, the Internet has thrived under innovators free of government intervention. For the vast majority of us, it is a part of our everyday lives. We pay our bills, update our Facebook statuses, use the Internet to research and write reports, and connect with our loved ones by using these series of connected portals.  With the added convenience of doing all these things from our desktops — or even our smartphones — comes a downside.

ADVERTISEMENT
Rampant industrial espionage and cybercrime from foreign hackers is threatening America’s economic engine, costing billions of dollars and countless jobs.

As I come to the end of my seventh term in Congress, and what will ultimately be my retirement from this institution, I refuse to relent on the unfinished business of my committee. Cyberattacks are one of the most significant threats we face today and the one against which we are least prepared to defend. This country needs meaningful cyber legislation, and we can wait no longer.

While the U.S. government is extremely capable of protecting government systems, our private sector networks are often left wholly exposed. American businesses are up against sophisticated nation states, and it’s an unfair fight.

The recent public breaches at Target and Home Depot remind us that no one is immune. Whether you are a big-box retailer, a manufacturer of fertilizer, or a bank clearing billions of dollars every day: everyone is vulnerable, and everyone is a target.

It is impossible to isolate a certain sector as being more exposed than another. Our entire economy is at risk, and that should sufficiently scare all of us.

Too often, companies that would like to share cyber threat information with private sector partners or the government are prevented or deterred from doing so by a range of policy and legal barriers. Those barriers and impediments are different depending on the various industries and sectors, but they certainly add up to a system that shares much less cyber threat information than most companies would otherwise like to share. We desperately need to knock down the barriers that are impeding the free flow of cyber threat information, and expand the private sector’s access to government classified cyber threat intelligence to help them protect their systems.

Along with my ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), I have been working hard to pass legislation to knock down those barriers. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) permits the private sector to expand its own cyber defense efforts and to employ classified information to protect systems and networks. This legislation helps create a more robust cybersecurity marketplace with expanded service offerings.

The House passed CISPA for the second time in April 2013, with strong protections for privacy and civil liberties, by an overwhelming bipartisan 288-127 vote. And the Senate Intelligence Committee passed its own information-sharing bill out of committee in July, also with bipartisan support.

It is a rare day in Congress that we can reach an agreement on anything, much less important legislation protecting our economic well-being.

But now the full Senate must act, and it must act quickly. If the Senate passes cyber legislation, I am confident that the House and the Senate are capable of coming together in short order to address this urgent threat and craft a final bill to send to the president’s desk.

The volume and complexity of the cyber threats American companies face is only going to continue to grow.  A cyber threat information-sharing bill must be signed into law before the end of this Congress.

Rogers has represented Michigan’s 8th Congressional District since 2001. He is chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee.