Senators seek 'gold standard' in cybersecurity

Alternative to better cybersecurity measures "could be a digital Pearl Harbor," oversight panel leaders write in op-ed.

The United States needs a "gold standard" in cyber-defenses, Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., Susan Collins, R-Maine., and Tom Carper, D-Del., said in a Washington Post op-ed. The alternative to better cybersecurity measures, they wrote, "could be a digital Pearl Harbor."

The authors, who serve respectively as chairman, ranking member, and member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, proposed legislation to give the Homeland Security Department statutory authority to work with industry to identify potential risks to the country's critical cyber-infrastructure.

That infrastructure includes power plants, electric grids, and pipelines. After potential trouble spots are identified, owners and operators can propose security measures, which would be reviewed by DHS cybersecurity experts before implementation.

The senators expressed hope that the more secure techniques, implementation, and products would spread to commercial markets. The framework would produce "best practices" that the private sector could, but would not be required to, use as a model, and the federal government's purchasing power would encourage the market to produce more secure products for nongovernment consumers, the senators wrote.

The bill would also give DHS a statutory responsibility to ensure the federal government shares cybersecurity protection responsibilities with the private sector.

"There is no such thing as 100 percent security, on- or offline, but we must strive to strengthen our defenses against those who are constantly working to do us harm," the senators said.