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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Federal Laws Relating to Cybersecurity: Discussion of Proposed Revisions

Eric A. Fischer
Senior Specialist in Science and Technology

For more than a decade, various experts have expressed increasing concerns about cybersecurity, in light of the growing frequency, impact, and sophistication of attacks on information systems in the United States and abroad. Consensus has also been building that the current legislative framework for cybersecurity might need to be revised.

The complex federal role in cybersecurity involves both securing federal systems and assisting in protecting nonfederal systems. Under current law, all federal agencies have cybersecurity responsibilities relating to their own systems, and many have sector-specific responsibilities for critical infrastructure.

More than 50 statutes address various aspects of cybersecurity either directly or indirectly, but there is no overarching framework legislation in place. While revisions to most of those laws have been proposed over the past few years, no major cybersecurity legislation has been enacted since 2002.

Recent legislative proposals, including many bills introduced in the 111th and 112th Congresses, have focused largely on issues in 10 broad areas (see “Selected Issues Addressed in Proposed Legislation” for an overview of how current legislative proposals would address issues in several of those areas):

  • national strategy and the role of government, 
  • reform of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), 
  • protection of critical infrastructure (including the electricity grid and the chemical industry), 
  • information sharing and cross-sector coordination, 
  • breaches resulting in theft or exposure of personal data such as financial information, 
  • cybercrime, 
  • privacy in the context of electronic commerce, 
  • international efforts, 
  • research and development, and 
  • the cybersecurity workforce. 

For most of those topics, at least some of the bills addressing them have proposed changes to current laws. Several of the bills specifically focused on cybersecurity have received committee or floor action, but none have become law. In the absence of enactment of cybersecurity legislation, the White House has reportedly considered issuing an executive order, but that has been opposed by some Members of Congress.

Comprehensive legislative proposals on cybersecurity that have received considerable attention in 2012 are The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (CSA 2012, S. 2105, reintroduced in revised form as S. 3414), recommendations from a House Republican task force, and a proposal by the Obama Administration. They differ in approach, with S. 2105 proposing the most extensive regulatory 

Date of Report: November 9, 2012
Number of Pages: 66
Order Number: R42114
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