… Critical Infrastructure Must Submit Plans

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 @ 06:05 PM gHale

Private companies that manage the nation’s critical infrastructure must submit detailed plans showing how they can defend themselves against cyberattack under a new cyber security initiative unveiled by the White House.

The proposal would apply to companies that provide electrical, financial and telecommunications services, oversee energy and transportation systems, or operate in other areas considered vital to national life.

Security experts have long warned the country’s civilian infrastructure is vulnerable to cyberattack. As many as 90 percent of the companies operating in that sector, however, are in private hands, which means the government lacks the authority on its own to confront cyberthreats to the civilian networks on which daily life depends.

“Our critical infrastructure … have suffered repeated cyber-intrusions, and cybercrime has increased dramatically over the last decade,” the White House said in a statement. “It has become clear that our Nation cannot fully defend against these threats unless parts of cyber security law are updated.”

The plan would allow private companies to draw up their own cyber security programs but gives the federal government the authority to approve or reject the proposals. Companies whose plans are inadequate would have to work with the Department of Homeland Security to improve their cyber defenses and could then suffer the public embarrassment of having unsatisfactory security programs. Companies with approved plans, on the other hand, would reap rewards for their compliance.

Private companies affected by the White House plan favor the more voluntary approach.

“We see this as an important step forward,” said Shannon Kellogg, senior director of government affairs at EMC Corp., a cyber security firm. “We think there are many elements of the White House proposal that should be enacted by the Congress.”

Legislators introduced dozens of bills to enhance cyber security, but sponsors of those measures wanted see the Obama administration’s own proposal before proceeding with their legislation.

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