The Complex

The other cybersecurity bills the House passed this week

CISPA isn't the only piece of cyber-security legislation that passed the House this week.

The Federal Information Security Management Act of 2013 updates the 2002 version of the federal IT security law, known as FISMA, by requiring government agencies to constantly monitor their computer networks for threats

Right now, FISMA requires government agencies to perform only yearly evaluations of cyber-threats and vulnerabilities. Yours truly can't tell you how many times I've heard cybersecurity experts say the current version of FISMA does nothing to stop fast-paced cyber threats; it's merely an exercise in checking off boxes.

As a statement released this week by Rep. Jim Langevin, co-chair of the Congressional Cyber Caucus says, "While the annual reports currently mandated under FISMA are supposed to give government executives overall insight into security management of their networks, this does not provide the minute-by-minute view into network security that is needed.

"It's just an out of date and slow process for examining security of government networks," a House staffer told Killer Apps. The new version of FISMA would mandate "continuous monitoring of networks and provide regular threat assessments."

Here's an excerpt from the Library of Congress' official summary of FISMA 2013, explaining the change in the reporting procedures:

Directs senior agency officials, with a frequency sufficient to support risk-based security decisions, to: (1) test and evaluate information security controls and techniques, and (2) conduct threat assessments by monitoring information systems and identifying potential system vulnerabilities. (Current law requires only periodic testing and evaluation.)

Directs agencies to collaborate with OMB [the Office of Management and Budget] and appropriate public and private sector security operations centers on security incidents that extend beyond the control of an agency. Requires that security incidents be reported, through an automated and continuous monitoring capability, when possible, to the federal information security incident center, appropriate security operations centers, and agency Inspector General.

The House also passed the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act which requires the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and "other key federal agencies" to develop a strategic plan for federal cybersecurity research and development work, with a focus on securing industrial-control systems and developing advanced protections for personal information online. (Remember, the Stuxnet virus that destroyed thousands of Iranian uranium-enrichment centrifuges targeted the machines' industrial-control computers.)

The second bill also calls for the establishment of a "Scholarship for Service" program meant to cultivate a highly-skilled government cybersecurity workforce, and it requires the president to send a report to Congress on the government's current and future cybersecurity workforce needs.

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