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April 20, 2012

New Cyber Security Legislation is Critical for Combating Cyber Threats, says Secretary Napolitano

Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security

Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security

Increased attacks in cyberspace, which include those on network services and utilities such as water and electricity, prompt the need for the enactment of new cyber security legislation that would give the Department of Homeland Security more authority to combat such attacks, said Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, today at the _’s Section of Litigation Spring Meeting in Washington, D.C.

“In the three plus years I have served as secretary, this is the area that we’ve seen the greatest growth in the number of attacks,” Napolitano said.  “This is an area that Congress may actually act on… There is a growing bipartisan awareness that the current amount of laws that we have, and the current system that we have, is probably not adequate to deal with all of the issues in cyberspace.”

Cyber crimes such as identity theft and stealing of account information are minimally costing the country an estimated $388 billion each year, Napolitano said.

“We also think that, that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” she continued.  “Securing cyberspace has become increasingly important to us and to our way of life, and there is a lot to be done.”

The Department of Homeland Security’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team, which currently watches for issues occurring in cyberspace 24/7, recorded more than 106,000 cyber incidents and issued more than 5,000 actionable cyber security alerts and information products to the government and private sectors.

Congress is current reviewing several bills addressing the issue, including the Cyber Security Act of 2012, which best matches the needs of the Department of Homeland Security, Napolitano said.

“There has been remarkable engagement by the leadership in the Senate,”  said Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del), who also spoke at the meeting. “We’ve had a dozen secure briefings from the highest levels of national intelligences, security and the Department of Justice.”

The Senate is currently reviewing two versions of a cyber security bill.

There is a need to create a bill that sets a clear standard and incentivizes compliance with its proposed standard, Coons said.

“My hope is that there is some compromise that could pass the house as well,” he said.

In addition to Napolitano and Coons, Judith A. Miller, former general counsel, U.S. Department of Defense; Michael Chertoff, former secretary of Homeland Security; Harold H. Koh, U.S. Department of State; and Scott Shane, New York Times served as panelists.

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