WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan (R., Pa.) helped push through a bill Monday aiming to strengthen the national protections and response to cyber-attacks.
Meehan, a former U.S. attorney who chairs the House subcommittee on cyber-security and infrastructure protection, was an original co-sponsor of a bill that would direct the Department of Homeland Security to create a plan to respond to cyber attacks and to coordinate preparation and responses across all level of government and the private sector, particularly among private entities that own critical infrastructure. The House passed the bill by a voice vote Monday.
If it passes the Senate, the bill would put into law many of the cyber-security response plans President Obama put in place with an executive order last year.
For all of the benefits of the internet, Meehan said, it has also opened new vulnerabilities.
"Its also created a situation for the first time in the history of our nation in which we aren't protected by two oceans and effectively two friendly countries on our borders," Meehan said on the House floor. "Now we are able to be accessed from anywhere in the world on a moment's notice."
The Delaware County Republican called cyber attacks "real and imminent" with the potential to damage bridges, tunnels, oil and gas pipelines, water systems, financial markets and more.
The bill would also require Homeland Security to share information about cyber threats with other arms of the government and private entities at risk, and to strengthen protections of information systems.
Meehan noted that by relying on the Department of Homeland Security, a civilian agency would handle a job that includes guarding against attacks that could compromise individuals' personal information. He stressed that the bill had support from both the private sector and advocates such as the ACLU. The non-controversial bill (no one spoke against it) passed after an internal tussle over legislative jurisdiction.
Two related bills also co-sponsored by Meehan also easily cleared the House: one would direct Homeland Security to send Congress a report on its plans to help develop and acquire technology to fight cyber attacks; another requires the department to create job classifications specific to cyber-security.