The Senate plans to hold a vote on comprehensive cybersecurity reforms during the first work period of 2012, according to senators on the committee with jurisdiction over federal computer protections.
In a letter sent late Wednesday, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., informed Senate Republicans of his decision to bring legislation to the floor early next year, according to members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Reid's bill is expected to include measures proposed by the committee that would automate federal information security practices and charge the Homeland Security Department with regulating safeguards for civilian public and private networks.
Efforts to pass broad legislation this year fell victim to job creation and deficit reduction priorities. Most computer privacy and security laws were enacted before social media and smartphones increased the country's reliance on the Internet.
"Hackers, criminals, and antagonistic foreign powers are maliciously probing our cyber defenses every day on an unprecedented scale, and it is no secret they have found our defenses to be vulnerable," Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., Ranking Member Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Federal Financial Management Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said in a joint statement. "Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that the next Pearl Harbor 'could very well be a cyberattack that cripples our power systems, our grid, our security systems, our financial systems, our governmental systems.' For that reason, we are grateful Majority Leader Reid has scheduled debate on this important national and economic security legislation shortly after Congress reconvenes next year."
While breaches have been common for years, more companies and governments are publicly speaking about them to put an end to the economically-costly invasions, experts say.
"There is no such thing as 100 percent security, on or offline, but we must take action to strengthen our defenses against those who are constantly working to do us harm," the lawmakers added.