May 12th, 2011
05:21 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) – In reaction to ever increasing attacks of cyber crime across the country, the White House today laid out its plan to protect U.S. citizens and the country’s critical infrastructure.
On a conference call with reporters, a senior White House official said cyber crimes have increased “dramatically” over the last several years and admitted that “the nation cannot fully defend against these threats unless certain parts of the cyber-security laws are updated.”
The proposal, the culmination of two and a half years of work, was done in consultation with cyber-security experts, privacy advocates, private industry and businesses, and officials from across the DOJ, DOD, DHS, and the Commerce Department.
“There’s a lot of smart people working in this,” the White House official said.
The plan was delivered to Congress today, is described by administration officials as “pragmatic and focused,” and aims to improve cyber-security for the American people, the country’s critical infrastructure, and the Federal Government’s own networks and computers.
Currently there are some 47 state laws that protect the American people from identity theft. A Department of Justice official suggested enacting a federal law would “simplify and standardize” those laws, and ultimately make it easier for businesses to report cyber-crime and safer for the American people.
Another aspect of the proposal would transfer authority to the Department of Homeland Security making it the hub for all cyber-security related incidents.
“The proposal really provides for greater, more streamlined cyber authority at the Department of Homeland Security, the United States government’s focal point for cyber-security. This new authority will enable DHS and the rest of the national security team to go that much further in protecting our nation and strengthening our national security posture,” a Defense Department official said.
Having DHS at the hub would allow the agency to respond to cyber incidents to the government and private industry more quickly, officials said.
The proposal would also lean more heavily on input from the private sector by implementing a “voluntary information sharing” system to encourage businesses to share more information with the government.
DHS would also ask private industry to help “mitigate risk” when it comes to national intelligence so, as a DHS official said, “we would have better situational awareness that we could use to protect critical infrastructure, the government, and the country more generally.”
“We don’t believe government has all the answers here, nor do we believe that it’s appropriate for the government to say, ‘Thou shalt do X, Y, and Z,’” the official added.
The White House also mentioned the many safeguards that would be set up to ensure that privacy and civil rights standards are met, including oversight by DOJ, outside oversight and auditing, and transparency through disclosure of cyber-security plans.
The proposal was drafted at the request of members of both houses of Congress according to the administration. Congress will likely be debated in the coming weeks and months and the administration is aware that this is just the beginning of the dialogue with members of Congress. But officials stressed the importance to act swiftly because in addition to being a matter of national security the White House believes cyber-security threats are of economic concern.
“Our economy is hurting today because of a lack of effective and fully sufficient cyber-security practices. This strategy is one that will address that concern with a thoughtful and well-targeted role for government,” a White House official said.