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Many hurdles await U.S. cybersecurity law
by Staff Writers
Washington (UPI) Feb 13, 2013

'Skills gap' seen in cybercrime fight
London (UPI) Feb 14, 2013 - Britain has made progress on cybersecurity since 2011 but is falling short in producing a new generation of computer experts, a government report warns.

The National Audit Office report released Tuesday said that in the two years since the government approved $1 billion to combat computer crime as part its national Cyber Security Strategy, authorities have prevented the loss of more than $780 million through the detection of compromised credit and debit cards.

But, it warned, there remains a current and future cybersecurity skills gap among British information technology professionals, with the current pipeline of graduates and practitioners unable to meet the demands of a quickly evolving security landscape.

Education officials interviewed by the NAO said it could take up to 20 years to address the skills gap at all levels of education.

The cost of cybercrime to the British economy is estimated to be $28 billion-$42 billion. To help address the challenge, the Cyber Security Strategy was established to help protect government information, systems and networks and to involve the public and private industry in the effort.

That has produced results, the NAO said. In 2012, the public made 46,000 reports of cybercrime, amounting to $457 million worth of attempted fraud.

But the country's ability to stay on top of the cyberthreats is being hampered by a lack of qualified experts.

"A number of government departments commented that the U.K. depended on a small number of highly skilled people to participate in developing international technical standards," the report noted.

Interviewees were also concerned about "a lack of promotion of science and technology subjects at school, resulting in the reported lower uptake of computer science and technology courses by U.K. students," creating a skills gap that could take two decades to close.

Britain's Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition government says it's working to address this and that it intends to overhaul computer and technology teaching in schools to "make it genuinely about computer science rather than office skills."

"We agree that skills are crucial to cybersecurity, which is why we are investing heavily in research and education through establishing new centers for excellence in cybersecurity research," a government spokeswoman told the BBC.

Chi Onwurah, the opposition Labor Party's Shadow Cabinet minister with responsibility for cybersecurity, said that while there is "some welcome progress" in the NAO report, "there is significant room for improvement in leadership and coordination. This is symptomatic of this government's ad hoc approach."

Ministers, she said, "need to ensure that we have the skills we will need 10 years down the line."

James Lyne, director of technology strategy at the British computer security firm Sophos, told technology journal V3 the government's cyber strategy is hooking some small fish but is facing an overwhelming tide of criminal activity.

"I've been involved in a few cases where fraud websites or operations have been suppressed," he said. "I've undoubtedly noticed an increased responsiveness, clarity of process and willingness for industry and government to work together to make life harder for cyber criminals."

"That said," he added, "we see over 250,000 new pieces of malware a day and a new infected website every few seconds -- so there is clearly a great deal more work to be done."

U.S. President Barack Obama's cybersecurity executive order has set in motion structural reforms its backers hope will be readily embraced by the U.S. corporate sector.

But security industry analysts say more needs to be done to achieve full compliance or willing participation by industries and businesses involved with numerous stages of infrastructural security in the United States and, by extension, other parts of the world.

Before his State of the Union address Tuesday, Obama signed an executive order meant to address U.S. cybersecurity needs in the face of "real threats."

He warned that the country's enemies were "seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions and our air traffic control systems."

Although the executive order requires business and industry to cooperate with government efforts, the onus for producing comprehensive legislation falls back on Congress, which failed to clinch bipartisan agreement on a tough cybersecurity bill.

In response to Obama's executive order, lawmakers said the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which passed the House of Representatives by a strong bipartisan vote of 248-168 last April, was being reintroduced in a renewed effort to give muscle to the cybersecurity measures.

"It is time to stop admiring this problem and deal with it immediately," U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said. "Congress urgently needs to pass our cyberthreat information sharing bill to protect our national security, our economy, and U.S. jobs."

"American industry is under attack, costing our country and our economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs," committee member Rep. C A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, D-Md., said. "We need to do everything we can to enable American companies to defend themselves against these devastating cyberattacks.

"Our bill does just that by permitting the voluntary sharing of critical threat intelligence while preserving important civil liberties," he said.

Obama's order instructed the National Institute of Standards and Technology, part of the U.S. Commerce Department, to work with both government agencies and business to draw up standards and practices and share both classified and unrestricted information with victims of cyberattacks.

The order expands the voluntary Enhanced Cybersecurity Services program to enable near real-time sharing of cyberthreat information to help participating critical infrastructure companies in their cyber protection efforts.

But because the order isn't a law it lacks powers to compel industry to effect change.

Obama acknowledged the problem and called on Congress to hasten legislation "to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks."

In May 2009, Obama declared the country's digital infrastructure a strategic national asset and made protecting the infrastructure a national priority. But more time must elapse before an effective framework is in place.

The directive says the development of the functional relationships within the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies related to critical infrastructure security and resilience will be completed within 120 days.

An assessment of the existing public-private partnership model and recommended options for improving the partnership must be finished within 150 days.

The timeline calls for an updated National Infrastructure Protection Plan within 240 days. It also calls for the completion of a national critical infrastructure security and resilience research and development plan within two years.

Israel says it has begun operating a special defense control center staffed by 20 Israeli soldiers to tackle cyberattacks.

"Few countries have this kind of ability," a defense source told The Jerusalem Post. "This is a part of the Israel defense force's readiness to ensure continuity of conventional operations. This continuity is based on cybersecurity."

The source described the center as a "nerve center for defense," adding it has "impressive command capabilities."

The newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying "in this world, time has no significance -- an attack can be launched immediately -- and neither does distance. The attacker can be anywhere."

A European cybercrime center opened in The Hague, Netherlands, in January. The European Union is proposing to require all its companies including utilities and hospitals to report cyberbreak-ins.

European companies oppose the requirement, arguing such reporting would damage their business. U.S. corporate lobbying based on similar arguments is said to have influenced the outcome in Congress so far of lawmakers' moves to bring in tougher cybersecurity laws.


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Obama moves to defend infrastructure from cyberattacks
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