Obama calls for new laws to bolster cybersecurity

Stan Ward

Stan Ward

January 14, 2015

President Obama can’t seem to get out of the shadow of Edward Snowden, no matter what he tries. The American president famously dissed the actions and activities of Snowden back in 2013, seeking to deflect attention from his administration’s security gaffes.

Now, just a week after Snowden disparaged the American Cyber-Security effort as being too offensive orientated to the detriment of defensive tactics, Obama, in advance of his State of the Union speech next week, is calling for a new initiative to address the potential imbalance and bolster cybersecurity nationwide and worldwide.

Mr. Obama’s proposal, which would be subject to approval by Congress, would boost penalties for cybercrimes by encouraging prosecution of offenses perpetrated through computer networks. The proposed legislation would also protect from liability companies that share information with the government about computer threats. The latter is a bone of contention with companies, and has hampered past efforts to enact cybersecurity improvements,

Neither government nor the private sector can defend the nation alone. It’s going to have to be a shared mission-government and industry working hand in hand.

Concerns about cybersecurity have heightened on the heels of the hacking of Sony in December, which has been laid at the feet of North Korea, and the subsequent attack on the US Central Command’s Twitter account a few days ago.

Obama appeared to be following Snowden’s script when he pronounced America’s infrastructure could be at risk, along with bank accounts in the event of a security breach. Administration sources, however, insist that cybersecurity legislation has been a goal of the administration for three years.

Why legislative redress has failed while the Democrats controlled both Houses, and later the Senate, defies explanation, but the President thinks that some new wrinkles in his proposals will engender bi-partisan support- a necessity with Republicans now dominating that law-making body.

In an about face, and in a matter sure to raise some eyebrows, Obama’s plan would encourage companies to share threat information – such as IP addresses, date and time stamps ,and routing information- with the Department of Homeland Security, which would then share it with other government agencies.

The proposed measure would empower law enforcement to contest cybercrime, including prosecuting the sale of botnets or computer networks created to engage in cybercrime. It would also give courts power to squelch those involved in Denial of Service (DoS) attacks and other nefarious activities.

To facilitate passage of the bill and to garner bi-partisan support, Obama will attend an industry summit at Stanford in February at which government officials, law enforcement officials and public interest advocates will all be present,

We want cybercriminals to feel the full force of American justice, because they are doing as much damage-if not more these days- as folks who are involved in more conventional crime.

It will be interesting to see what the final rollout of the measure will look like. It doesn’t appear that it will be too appealing to the Internet privacy crowd, taking into account the potential revealing of IP addresses, and the nuances of shared personal information. However, in the wake of recent cyber failings it probably is a step in the right direction. Do we have Edward Snowden to thank for enabling long overdue legislation?

As always, Stan’s views are entirely his own, and do not reflect those of the rest of the BestVPN staff.

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