House E&C Committee to Hold Hearing on Cybersecurity

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The House Energy & Commerce Committee cited last month's cyberattacks on the website of the Motion Picture Association of America and the threat to interconnected VoIP as among its reasons for holding a hearing Feb. 8 on cybersecurity threats to communications networks and what the private sector, including cable-based ISPs, are doing about it.

An internal memo from Republican staffers puts one exclamation point on the issue by citing the attacks by cyberterrorist group "Anonymous" on MPAA and government cites "in response to anti-digital piracy efforts."

The attacks came in response to House and Senate consideration of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate, both of which were eventually tabled after a Web-backed protest asserting the bills would be Internet chilling or killing overreach.

The memo also points out that attacks on networks could "disrupt all Internet-enabled communications including interconnected VoIP service."

The issue of cybersecurity has been heating up in the new session of Congress.

The House Homeland Security Committee is vetting the Promoting and Enhancing Cybersecurity and Information Sharing Effectiveness (PRECISE) Act of 2011 (H.R. 3674), which "defines the Department of Homeland Security roles and responsibilities and protects individual privacy during increased public-private information sharing on cyberthreats." In addition, the Senate Intelligence Committee last week held a hearing on cybersecurity legislation, which is being worked on by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) among others. Rockefeller said last week there was an urgent need for passage of legislation to improve security of private networks and increase public-private info sharing.

Rockefeller pointed out they are in their third year of the cybersecurity legislation effort and that he felt confident that, by now, "every voice has been heard." One of those voices has been the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which has pointed out in the past that that was one of the reasons they pushed during the network neutrality debate for the flexibility to manage traffic on their networks given the billions of viruses, worms, spam, malware, spyware and denial-of-service attacks operators face.

NCTA is also OK with more coordination with government and backed a House bill introduced in November, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011, that would increase info sharing while immunizing the private sector from criminal or civil liability for using cybersecurity systems, sharing information, or not acting on information obtained or shared.

The Justice Department last week also named a new chief information officer to help boost cybersecurity.

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