Cyber Security through the back door?

What role should the U.S. government in protecting the computer systems of private companies play?

The U.S. House of Representatives dealing with a law to improve protection against cyber attacks .

Terrorists or hostile countries must engage in today's networked world, not necessarily with bombs to inflict damage. And criminals could sabotage of key infrastructure systems or the Internet, tap secret information. Incidents such as the sabotage of Iran's nuclear program by the worm Stuxnet have shown that this is not a purely virtual danger.

The U.S. House of Representatives engaged in the coming days with a law to improve protection against attacks from the Internet. However, the Cyber ​​Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (Cispa) almost as controversial as the failed Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa).

It is controversial, especially the question of what role the U.S. government should play in protecting the computer systems of private companies. Many major companies are privately owned infrastructure: power plants, transmission networks for electricity, water and gas, water works, railway, communication networks, chemical plants and many more. All the important control functions within these systems are now running on your computer.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other private sector interest groups have opposed the adoption of minimum requirements. Washington possessed only rules would cause costs without reducing the risk, they argue. The administration of President Barack Obama endorsed the other hand, minimum system requirements of the operators. This is to ensure that they resist, to some degree and fast attacks even after a successful attack can resume operation. The Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano warned on Friday, with no standards for critical industries will there be gaps that could be exploited by enemies of the United States.

Exchange between companies and intelligence agencies

The House of Representatives introduced a proposal takes a different approach. It stipulates that private companies and U.S. intelligence agencies share information to better defend against attacks by hackers and technologies for the control of their corporate networks. Civil rights and privacy advocates prepared by the Republican chairman and the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee wrote to initiate legislation but abdominal pain.

Critics fear that would create a back door, a new monitoring system, because the secret service NSA would be granted access to private data. The NSA's mission is to obtain information electronically from foreign governments, but may not actually spy on Americans. NSA Director Keith Alexander is also head of the Pentagon's Cyber ​​Command, which protects military networks.

"The question is whether this is a Cyber ​​Security Act, or a secret law," says Leslie Harris, president of the nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology. "There is a fundamental debate about what role the NSA will play in protecting civilian networks."

Business support Cispa

According to the Secret Service be given the NSA or the Department of Defense by the Law no new rights to control public and private programs for computer security. Companies like Facebook support the law because it leaves it to individual companies to decide how to defend themselves against the best attacks.

The debate over Cispa will endure for a while. Unlike the controversial law, the intention behind Sopa Cispa be prevented especially in industrial espionage or sabotage. Despite some previous downturns were the concerns that the law could be misused for other purposes - such as the fight against piracy - not fully resolved.

The initiators of the Intelligence Committee announced that they were ready to respond to the concerns of civil rights and privacy advocates, while the real goal of the law is not affected. In the coming days will be negotiated in Washington about how it might look like a solution. 

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