This week is Washington's "make-or-break" moment to pass a new cybersecurity bill ahead of the August recess. As a result, there's never been a better time to stoke fears of a crippling cyber attack regardless of its actual likelihood. As The Hill's Jennifer Martinez and Brendan Sasso report today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is poised to move a bill sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman for a vote as early as Wednesday. The goal of the bill is to improve the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure like power plants and water systems, but if you were to take this week's rhetoric at face value, the safety of the Republic is really what's at stake.
The fear mongers ranged from industry types to politicians. "Anyone can buy the technological capability to cripple the electric grid, steal proprietary information from seemingly secure websites, and digitally drain bank accounts of money," Sen. Lieberman stated ahead of this week's votes. "Our most important networks are alarmingly vulnerable." At the same time, President Obama, who supports Lieberman's bill, penned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that opened with an ominous, Don DeLillo-ish premonition of a train derailing, chemicals exploding into a "toxic cloud" and water treatment plants shutting down and poisoning the water supply. "Fortunately," the president noted, it was just a national security exercise. Still, "In a future conflict, an adversary unable to match our military supremacy on the battlefield might seek to exploit our computer vulnerabilities here at home,” he wrote.