House measure proposes help for companies experiencing cybersecurity attacks

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a measure that should help companies deal with the privacy and financial issues surrounding cybersecurity attacks.

The measure, which is similar to one moving slowly through Senate approval and supported by the White House, would "push companies to share access to their computer networks and records with federal investigators," a New York Times story reports.

Security became a hot issue when hackers, allegedly traced back to North Korea, broke into Sony's computer systems, revealing confidential information as retaliation to a motion picture mocking North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Target agreed to reimburse MasterCard to the tune of $19 million for losses incurred when 40 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen from its computer network and the records of nearly 80 million people who do business with Anthem were exposed.

The goal is to throw government support behind these companies in their cybersecurity, as long as the companies cooperate with the government. The House measure set rules whereby a company that shares information with the government would get liability protection after its data was subjected to two rounds of washing out personal information. Companies that share cyber threat information with each other or the government would receive legal liability protections as long as they adhered to the rules.

"The gravity of the emergency we have in cyberspace is setting in with lawmakers," cyber security expert Paul Kurtz told the newspaper. "They now understand that companies cannot fight the bad guys individually."

The measure did not receive universal support as some critics questioned the ability of the government to protect the information.

"We've seen before that the federal government has a poor track record of safeguarding our information," Colorado Rep. Jared Polis told the House, noting that opening up more information is "the last thing we should be doing."

That, though, went counter to supporters of the measure who believe the government has to help companies under cybersecurity siege.

"We are under attack as I speak," Maryland Rep. Dutch Rupperberger said. "To do nothing is not an option."

For more:
- see this New York Times story (sub. req.)

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