By Alice Lipowicz
Congress may want to consider penalizing organizations and companies
that have poor information security policies that contribute to a
major loss of sensitive information, according to a new Congressional
Research Service report  on cybersecurity.
Other policy questions Congress may choose to consider are whether
computer product vendors should report quickly all serious, newly
discovered vulnerabilities to the Homeland Security Department, and
whether computer service providers and businesses should be required
to report to DHS any "major security vulnerabilities that have been
newly exploited by cybercriminals," the report said.
The CRS report, "Terrorist Capabilities for Cyberattack," states that
security experts disagree about whether global terrorists are capable
of launching a successful cyberattack against U.S. civilian critical
infrastructure, and whether such an attack would seriously disrupt the
However, tighter physical security may be encouraging terrorists to
turn to cybersecurity, either by developing new computer skills
themselves or by aligning with cybercriminals, the CRS report said.
Those new capabilities may be used in an online terrorist attack with
the intent of crippling IT infrastructures, or to finance a more
conventional terrorist attack against facilities or people.
There is evidence that terrorists are gaining understanding of IT and
have expanded their recruitment of people skilled in computer
sciences, engineering and mathematics, the report said. Several recent
terrorist events appear to have been funded partially through online
Whether it is linked with terrorism, cybercrime is increasing
dramatically. The report cites research by IBM Corp. stating that
during the first half of 2005, criminal-driven computer security
attacks increased by 50 percent, most frequently targeting government
agencies and industries in the United States.
Policy issues for Congress include evaluating whether counterrorism
efforts ought to be linked more closely with international efforts to
prevent cybercrime, the CRS report said. Also, there are policy
questions about whether the Defense and Homeland Security departments
ought to collaborate more closely to strengthen the computer security
of civilian agencies and infrastructure.
The report identifies five pieces of legislation before Congress
related to improving national computer security: H.R. 285, 744, 1817
and 3109 and S. 768.
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