Hopes fade for new U.S. cybersecurity law in 2012
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Despite growing concerns of the threat of cyber attacks, chances of a new cybersecurity law passing this year faded Thursday as Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would have let the government and companies share information about attacks on computer networks.
The measure had been viewed as one of the few that might draw enough bi-partisan support to get through the largely deadlocked Congress. Experts say there is an urgent need to address vulnerabilities of both government and private systems controlling everything from highway traffic to financial services.
But the Senate mustered just 52 of the 60 votes needed in the 100-member body to advance the bill to a final vote, effectively sidelining it.
Business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce complained that the bill was over-regulation by the government, and some Republicans wanted more opportunity to push their amendments.
There is still a slim chance for passage before January, when the current Congress ends. But with the session winding down ahead of the November 6 congressional and presidential elections and tied in knots over partisan issues involving taxes and spending, cybersecurity may fall to side.
The House of Representatives passed a narrower version in April, and the Senate bill needed to pass this week to give lawmakers from both chambers time to informally broker a deal on final legislation during the August recess, said Stewart Baker, a former senior official at the Department of Homeland Security and now a cybersecurity expert at the law firm Steptoe and Johnson.
The House version would allow companies and the government to share information about hacking. The current version of the Senate bill took a broader approach that would also create a set of voluntary cybersecurity standards for companies in charge of U.S. energy, water, transportation and other critical infrastructure.
(Reporting By Jasmin Melvin; Editing by Sandra Maler and Vicki Allen)
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