Economic Espionage in Cyberspace—A Real and Growing Threat

Apr 30, 2012

To many, “economic espionage” sounds like a good plot twist in a blockbuster action film or in a best-selling crime novel. But it is a fact—not fiction—that organized criminals, “hacktivists,” and some foreign governments are spying and stealing in cyberspace. Like it or not, along with the commercial benefits of a world interconnected through the Web, bad actors have figured out ways to steal business secrets, raid consumer financial information, and wreak havoc on business networks. And these cyber threats are on the rise.

Today, economic security is national security, and the federal government can do more to help the private sector protect itself while not tying the hands of owners and operators in red tape.

The vast majority of the systems and assets being targeted are owned and operated in the private sector. So in the face of high-tech threats from increasingly sophisticated criminals, U.S. businesses are working to guard against computer network intrusions, protect consumer data from being compromised, and prevent the loss of capital and trade secrets.

The U.S. Chamber is pushing for legislation so that businesses won’t have to face this threat alone. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which recently passed the House, proposes limited and practical policy changes that would strengthen U.S. cybersecurity through public-private information sharing.

The government would share information with businesses to help them prevent, detect, and respond to rapidly developing threats. Businesses could also voluntarily share information with the public sector. Far from creating a “Wild West” of cyber information sharing, the legislation would guard Americans’ privacy by prohibiting the government from compelling private companies to hand over information. And it would encourage companies to minimize information that they do share and make it anonymous. The central purpose of the bill is to ensure the security of a system or a network—not collect or monitor personal information.

The legislation also assures companies that the information they share with the government would not lead to frivolous lawsuits or be used to regulate them. Another key aspect of this bill is that it takes a nonregulatory approach to strengthening cybersecurity. That means businesses can focus their efforts on actual security measures rather than regulatory compliance.

Everyone agrees that America needs robust cybersecurity. The Chamber commends the House for leading the way with a proposal to promote innovation to keep the Internet vibrant and secure while protecting personal privacy. The Senate should follow suit.

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