US officials say report of Chinese hacking proves need for cybersecurity bill

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White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Tuesday that the United States has "substantial and growing concerns" about cyberattacks. 

"That’s why the United States government is taking an active approach to addressing the issue of cyber theft. We have urged Congress to pass legislation, and the president is taking all steps he can through the executive branch to make sure that we’re safeguarding government networks and providing helpful and useful and relevant information to the private sector to help them safeguard their networks," Carney said during the press briefing.

He added that it is vital that the United States and China continue a "sustained, meaningful dialogue and work together to develop an understanding of acceptable behavior in cyberspace."

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies Democrats give Warren's 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder Liz Cheney applauds Trump for pulling out of Paris climate agreement MORE (D-Del.) said the report is "yet another important reminder" of the nation's frightening vulnerability to cyberattacks.

"Our nation cannot afford more delay on this issue. That’s why it was so important that the President issued his cybersecurity Executive Order and why we must quickly pass the still critically needed comprehensive cybersecurity legislation,” Carper said.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinHarris introduces bill to prevent California wildfires Senate Democrats introduce Violence Against Women Act after bipartisan talks break down Harris shares video addressing staffers the night Trump was elected: 'This is some s---' MORE (D-Calif.) said the report "clearly demonstrates the need to pass cyber security legislation as soon as possible."

She expressed frustration that the Chinese government continues to deny any involvement in the attacks.

"I have personally raised cyber attacks with Chinese officials as recently as last week. Again, complete denial," she said.

Feinstein said the report reinforces the need for a binding international agreement to prohibit cyberattacks. 

"There are already international agreements in place to govern criminal activity and war. Cyber attacks are both, but there is nothing currently in place to govern this emerging and increasingly dangerous national and economic security threat," she said.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerBottom Line World Health Day: It's time to fight preventable disease Lobbying World MORE (D-W.Va.) said the report "echoes what our military and national security officials have been warning for years."

"We need comprehensive cybersecurity legislation and I will continue working with my colleagues to give the government and private sector the strongest resources to protect ourselves from increasing intrusions and attacks,” he said.

"The report shows what we already knew," said Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. "China is robbing American companies blind, stealing our valuable trade secrets and stealing our jobs. We must give our businesses the cyber threat intelligence they need to protect themselves from these cyber attacks." 

Ruppersberger and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) introduced legislation last week that would allow companies and the government to share more information about cyber threats.

Ruppersberger said his bill, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), "will help American businesses protect themselves." 

The White House and Sens. Carper, Feinstein and Rockefeller backed separate legislation last year that would have set cybersecurity standards for critical infrastructure, such as banks and power plants.

But Senate Republicans blocked the legislation, arguing it would have burdened businesses with ineffective regulations.

Ahead of his State of the Union address last week, President Obama signed an executive order that will create a voluntary set of cybersecurity best-practices for companies that operate critical infrastructure.

The order also requires federal agencies to share more information about cyber threats to U.S. companies and the public.

—Updated at 6:42 p.m.