By Noah Shachtman
June 2, 2010
Joe Lieberman wants to give the federal government the power to take
over civilian networks' security, if there's an "imminent cyber threat."
It's part of a draft bill, co-sponsored by Senators Lieberman and Susan
Collins, that provides the Department of Homeland Security broad
authority to ensure that "critical infrastructure" stays up and running
in the face of a looming hack attack.
The government's role in protecting private firms. networks is one of
the most contentious topics in information security today. Several bills
are circulating on Capitol Hill on how to keep power and transportation
and financial firms running in the event of a so-called "cybersecurity
Last week, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn floated the idea of
extending a controversial cybersurveillance program to hacker-proof the
firms. Meanwhile, the military's new Cyber Command is readying itself to
march to these companies' aid.
Lieberman and Collins' solution is one of the more far-reaching
proposals. In the Senators' draft bill, "the President may issue a
declaration of an imminent cyber threat to covered critical
infrastructure." Once such a declaration is made, the director of a DHS
National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications is supposed to
"develop and coordinate emergency measures or actions necessary to
preserve the reliable operation, and mitigate or remediate the
consequences of the potential disruption, of covered critical
"The owner or operator of covered critical infrastructure shall comply
with any emergency measure or action developed by the Director," the
These emergency measures are supposed to remain in place for no more
than 30 days. But they can be extended indefinitely, a month at a time.
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