A new bill presented to Congress would see mandatory computer security standards imposed on government and private companies that control the critical infrastructure of the US.
The bill, sponsored by senators John D. Rockefeller IV and Olympia J Snowe, would see the creation of a National Cybersecurity Advisor (NCA) with direct access to the president.
The NCA would have the power to shut down any part of the US critical infrastructure, such as power, telephony or environmental supplies, if an attack took place.
In addition, the NCA would be able to enforce common security standards (set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology) across the national infrastructure, and would set up state and regional cyber security centres to provide local advice to businesses. Scholarships would also be set up for students learning about computer security.
"America's vulnerability to massive cyber crime, global cyber espionage, and cyber attacks has emerged as one of the most urgent national security problems facing our country today," said Snowe.
"Our failure to implement effective policies and procedures to protect critical infrastructure, prevent invasive intrusion and conduct an aggressive threat assessment has proven extremely consequential, putting the American information system at grave risk.
"It is abundantly clear that we must unite on all fronts to confront this monumental challenge. If we fail to take swift action we regrettably risk a cyber-Katrina."
The wide-ranging bill would also set up a Cybersecurity Advisory Panel made up of representatives from industry, academia and security organisations to advise the president on online security issues. It would also require the licensing of cyber security professionals.
"We must protect our critical infrastructure at all costs, from our water to our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records," said Rockefeller.
"It's an understatement to say that cyber security is one of the most important issues we face; the increasingly connected nature of our lives only amplifies our vulnerability to cyber attacks and we must act now."
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