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Clarke: Recovery After Cyber-Attack More Costly Than Prevention

In a recent United Technologies/National Journal poll, almost two-thirds of respondents said government and businesses should not be able to share information about consumers because of privacy concerns. Though information sharing is vital to improving the level of security on our networks, Congress needs to carefully craft legislation that will ensure consumersí personal information is not jeopardized by any new framework.

Although the federal governmentís role in private-sector cybersecurity should largely be limited to facilitating the flow of information and providing support when requested, there is one area of our private sector that requires special attention and a more proactive approach from the federal government: critical infrastructure.

Our nationís critical infrastructure, most of which is privately owned, powers our homes and keeps water running. As Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan noted, there has been a nearly fivefold increase from 2010 to 2011 in reported cyber-intrusions against networks controlling sensitive critical infrastructure, and some infrastructure owners have accepted risks that could endanger public safety. Experts fear that, in the near future, a virus similar to the notorious Stuxnet virus, which did serious damage to Iranís nuclear program, could be turned against networks controlling our dams, electric power or pipelines and lead to disastrous consequences.

Governmentís top responsibility is to protect our citizens, whether it is through setting standards, regulations or incentives. Congress must proactively address the cybersecurity of our nationís critical infrastructure, with a plan for both protection and resilience.

Regrettably, important legislation that would accomplish this is stalled in the Senate, and the House has refused to take up critical infrastructure legislation of any kind. Unfortunately, the failure of Congress to take any meaningful action to protect critical infrastructure networks from crippling cyber-attacks may one day come back to haunt us all.

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) is ranking member on the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies.

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