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Little new in Obama cybersecurity proposal

Jaikumar Vijayan, Computerworld | May 13, 2011
A set of cybersecurity proposals, submitted to Congress on Thursday by the Obama administration, contained little that was new or unexpected.

Other proposals include measures for stronger protections for cloud computing, and laws that would prevent states from requiring cloud service providers to build data centers in their state, unless explicitly approved by the federal government.

"This proposal strikes a critical balance between maintaining the government's role and providing industry with the capacity to innovatively tackle threats to national cybersecurity," Schmidt said in his blog post.

Alan Paller, research director at the SANS Institute, said the White House proposal will catalyze congressional action around cybersecurity.

"It is a fundamental and important step," Paller said. "I think the Republicans and the Democrats will go along with it," especially as far as the FISMA recommendations are concerned.

"There are some details in the FISMA upgrade that are central to making the government lead by example" on the cybersecurity front, he said. "I'm sure there are people who are going to think they needed to do a lot more, but I like what I'm seeing in this."

However, Richard Stiennon, an analyst at IT Harvest, said that there's little in the proposals that would move the needle significantly on cybersecurity.

"Congress, for instance, has been working on a data breach law to supersede state laws since 2004," and that task still remains incomplete, he said. Similarly, IPS systems might have been a great idea several years ago, but he said that "threats have moved beyond that in ensuing years."

The increased data sharing between the private and public sectors that is called for in the proposals is also nothing new, Stiennon said. "That's what US-CERT was set up for. No vision here," he said.

The notion of the DHS getting more actively engaged in helping private sector companies on cyber matters is also a bit troubling, Stiennon said. "How often is the federal government involved in fixing potholes in our freeways?" he asked. "Their job is to protect government."


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