cyber security
The bill would help protect U.S. cyber security interests as the threat of cyber attacks grows. Reuters

The Senate passed a bill meant to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure against cybersecurity threats on Thursday. The Cybersecurity Act (S. 1353) would allow for the creation of a set of industrial standards to protect key industrial sectors including energy, telecommunications and finance.

The standards would be voluntary, and developed as a partnership between the Department of Homeland Security with private industry leaders to reduce the risk of cyber attacks. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for further review.

The Cybersecurity Act has four major components including the creation of new standards. They include a federal “research and development plan to meet cybersecurity objectives, including how to guarantee individual privacy, verify third-party software and hardware, address insider threats, determine the origin of messages transmitted over the Internet, and protect information stored using cloud computing or transmitted through wireless services.”

The act also calls for federal support of “competitions and challenges” meant to stimulate innovations in cyber security, as well as national campaigns to raise awareness and understanding of the risks involved with “use of the Internet” and “social media.”

The act codifies the Department of Homeland Security's existing National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. The bill calls on the center to serve as a federal civilian information sharing interface for cybersecurity. It also authorizes the center's current activities to share cybersecurity information and analysis with the private sector, provide incident response and technical assistance to companies and federal agencies and recommend security measures to enhance cybersecurity.

“Cyber security is one of the biggest national security challenges our country faces. Our laws should reflect that reality,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) said in a statement. “It is critical that the Department continues to build strong relationships with businesses, state and local governments, and other entities across the country so that we can all be better prepared to stop cyber attacks and quickly address those intrusions that do occur."

Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.V.) authored the legislation, which passed with unanimous consent, according to The Hill. Rockefeller is chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, but has announced he will not seek reelection this year.