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Senators introduce new cyber security bill. Is it the new CISPA?


U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is questione by reporters after he left a closed door joint Senate and House Intelligence Committee meeting on Capitol Hill, on June 7, 2012 in Wasington, DC. The joint Intelligence committee met with James R. Clapper,ÊDirector of National Intelligence to discuss administration leaks of classified information.


Mark Wilson

A group of Republican senators introduced a new cyber security bill, the Secure IT Act, earlier this week as an alternative the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a bill President Barack Obama pledged to veto.

The bill is backed by John McCain, Kay Baily Hutchison and Saxby Chambliss, among other senators.

Secure IT is similar to CISPA. It would remove the legal barriers that prevent companies from sharing information about cyber threats with one another and with the government, The Hill reported. The bill also hopes to address the concerns of internet freedom and privacy activists that argue cyber security legislation gives government agencies access to American’s online privates information.

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“Our bill focuses on giving companies and the government the tools and knowledge they need to protect themselves from cyber threats, and creates new important requirements for government contractors to notify their agencies of significant cyber-attacks to their systems,” said Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, one of the senators backing the bill, in a statement.

Secure IT focuses on removing government regulations and standards for critical systems, something that the Republican senators see as an intrusion by government on the private sector. The bill grants no power to the government in setting mandatory security standards. The White House and several senate Democrats argue that networks controlling critical systems, like power and natural gas, should meet a set of security critera laid out by the government. 

"The key to successfully fighting this threat is not adding more bureaucrats or forcing industries to comply with government red-tape,” John McCain said in a statement. “Instead, we must leverage the ingenuity and innovation of the private sector in partnership with the most effective elements of the federal government to address this emerging threat.”

Privacy groups and internet activists remain unconvinced that any cyber security legislation will preserve internet freedom and civil liberties on the internet. 

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Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told The Hill that the new bill is still "fundamentally flawed." She said the changes are only "around the edges" and "don't get at the central problems in the bill."

News of the new cyber security bill was met with strong opposition on several major internet forums. Comments ranged from “Enough already!” to calls for the disembowelment of senators, as the internet often does.