Obama Will Take the Lead Protecting Cybernetworks; Executive Order Will Bypass Congress after Its Three Failures

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Byline: Shaun Waterman, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Having failed to pass cybersecurity legislation for the third consecutive year, Congress this year will take a back seat to the Obama administration in trying to secure critical networks such as transportation, banking and communications from Internet attacks.

As early as this month, President Obama is expected to sign an executive order to help protect industrial networks from computer hackers, especially those affiliated with terrorist groups and foreign adversaries.The executive order will set policy under existing law to help the government more effectively secure the nation's critical infrastructure by working collaboratively with the private sector, White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in an email, adding that the order is not a substitute for new legislation. Cyberattacks have shut down websites, slowed communications, wrecked computer-operated industrial machinery, and allowed hackers to steal financial and identity information worth billions of dollars.But businesses are concerned that only changes in the law can protect them from lawsuits if their cybersecurity measures fail or have unanticipated impacts on their customers Only Congress can address those [liability] issues, said Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, who was general counsel and later staff director of the House Committee on Homeland Security from 2003 to 2008.

According to James A. Lewis, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a draft version of the executive order would direct federal agencies to incorporate cybersecurity standards as part of the regulatory requirements they impose on the industries they regulate. Independent agencies, such as the Federal Communications Commission, will be asked to help, Mr. Lewis said, but will the standards make sense, and will they be imposed within a reasonable timeline? He said there is very little prospect of the 113th Congress crafting and enacting a cybersecurity bill this year, as new leaders assume command of the committees and subcommittees that would produce such legislation.The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will be led by Sens. Thomas R. Carper, Delaware Democrat and committee chairman, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the panel's ranking Republican. They replace Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, who retired at the end of the 112th Congress, and Sen. …