Cybersecurity is back in the news, thanks in no small part to a number of government reports and developments with WikiLeaks. It’s also becoming increasingly important to businesses and lawmakers alike. Although not a new concern for the telecommunications industry, cybersecurity is quickly becoming a priority for the new Congress as pressure increases to develop a national plan.
What should cybersecurity protect?
A national cybersecurity plan would likely entail setting baseline security standards to protect critical networks – many of which are run by private organizations. For policymakers, the challenge will be to craft guidelines that protect consumer data and still allowing technological innovation. Last year, we saw a number of legislative proposals debated before Congress that would place new requirements on network infrastructure and strengthen coordination between federal regulators. So far, the proposals have been broad and have only raised additional questions. The hurdle for lawmakers will be addressing how existing data protection laws fit within new proposals in order that businesses do not face over burdensome requirements.
Where does the FCC fit in?
When it comes to cybersecurity, the role of the FCC is even more undefined – however that’s changing. Last summer, the FCC asked for public comments about the creation of a Cybersecurity Roadmap to identify vulnerabilities to communications networks and to develop countermeasures and solutions to cyber threats. The roadmap was first recommended as part of a broader strategy to create a National Broadband Plan that required the FCC to identify the five most critical security threats and establish a two-year plan to address them. While the Commission has accepted public comments, it’s unclear when a final Roadmap will be introduced.
A national breach notification standard
As part of a comprehensive plan, policymakers are also looking at what happens after a breach occurs. Currently, 46 states have passed laws requiring companies to notify consumers after a security breach. As a result, policymakers have begun to examine whether a national data breach law is necessary given the varying degrees of consumer notification. The FCC has indicated their support of a uniform law and has recommended that Congress include telecoms in the legislative discussion.
Despite the uncertainty, one thing is sure: cybersecurity will be increasingly important to monitor during 2011.
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