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Regulators plead for help on data security

Lawmakers and top regulators are calling for a new law to help protect consumers’ sensitive data following breaches in which millions of accounts were compromised.

In the third hearing on the issue this week, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairwoman Edith Ramirez told lawmakers on a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee there is “certainly no perfect solution to this issue, but it’s clear to me that congressional action is necessary.”

Bob Russo, general manager of PCI Security Standards Council, which sets industry standards, also testified in the hearing on Wednesday. He told The Hill that there are “plenty of things that government can do.”

“Law enforcement is one,” he said. “We know where these guys are, in some cases we even know who they are, but we still can’t get them. Law enforcement is certainly an area where we can use some help.”

Data breaches at Target, Neiman Marcus and a slew of other businesses have raised concerns on Capitol Hill and around the country about consumers’ data security. Several lawmakers have introduced new bills to help cops better respond to attacks, set new security standards or require that people are told quickly after their information is hacked.

Ramirez told lawmakers on Wednesday that any new legislation should also further empower the FTC to take action against companies with lax security standards.

William Noonan, the deputy special agent in charge at the Secret Service’s cyber operations branch, said that both Target and Neiman Marcus “use robust security plans in their protection of their environment.”

“As good as security factors are, these criminal organizations are looking at ways to go around whatever security apparatus has been set up,” he said.

Lawmakers who have pressed for a new law said that broad support in Congress could help to spur action.

“This is one of those rare days that something might actually happen as result of a congressional hearing,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), who hoped for a bill to be passed this year.

“We will try to move on something hopefully in this Congress.”