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July 09, 2012

Cybersecurity Debate Set to Explode in U.S. Senate

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

While the “Internet Doomsday” virus DNSChanger wreaks havoc on the estimated 300,000 computers still infected, U.S. lawmakers are gearing up for argument this week over cyber security legislation.

The Senate deliberation focuses on various interpretations of how to secure and protect the nation’s networks against cyber terrorism and threats such as DNSChanger, with partisan bills on either side of the aisle and a bipartisan attempt at a compromise.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) in April, but the bill hasn’t made it through the Senate, and President Obama has threatened to veto the bill on privacy grounds if it does go through.

CISPA would allow the federal government to request confidential customer records from Internet companies in the name of security.

An alternate bill in the Senate, the Cybersecurity Act – sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and backed by the White House and Senate Democrats – includes tougher private protection and allows the Department of Homeland Security to issue mandatory security standards for infrastructure deemed critical.

Some Republican Senators find the Cybersecurity Act too onerous for businesses, however, and have crafted alternate legislation. The Strengthening and Enhancing Cybersecurity by Using Research, Education, Information and Technology Act (SECURE IT), pushed by Republications such as John McCain (Ariz.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), focuses on information sharing over regulation so it doesn’t curtail the autonomy of businesses.

Democrats argue that SECURE IT has no teeth because it lacks concrete protections or regulations, however, prompting a bipartisan compromise by Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. The agreement would put pressure on companies to meet security standards but not outright force them to comply.

All this takes place while the effects of the DNSChanger virus make themselves known. An estimated four million computers were infected with the DNSChanger virus, which changed DNS settings on the infected computers to reroute through Estonian servers, according to tech site Ars Technica.

When the FBI and Estonian authorities broke the ring in late 2011, they replaced the servers with alternate servers so those infected had time to fix their computers. But the court order that authorizes the replacement servers ends July 9, so anyone who has not fixed their computer by then will lose all internet access.

As noted above, there is an estimated 300,000 computers that have still not been fixed. But if you are reading this, apparently your computer is fine!

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Edited by Braden Becker
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