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WASHINGTON, D.C. -  After a tour of the Department of Homeland Security Center that centralizes information sharing and incident response to protect U.S. cyber networks, U.S. Senator Susan Collins called for legislation that would protect critical infrastructure - our electric grid, water and sewer systems, transportation and financial networks.

Senator Collins, along with Senators Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has introduced the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, to apply minimum security standards to the networks of the nation's most critical infrastructure. 

Senator Collins toured the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center NCCIC) in Northern Virginia.   It is a 24-7 hub that identifies cybersecurity threats, communicates protective actions, and coordinates responses with federal, state, local, and private sector partners and the public.

"I saw firsthand that DHS has, already in place, a cutting-edge facility that is uncovering cyber threats and working to respond to those threats, as well as prevent future attacks," said Senator Collins.   "I am concerned that the House legislation that passed yesterday could displace DHS from the role it is already performing to help secure the federal government's own computer networks.  Nevertheless, I am encouraged by the House recognition that we must act to address the increasingly sophisticated and dangerous attacks on our national infrastructure.  We can no longer delay action on deciding how to deal with this critical issue and we are eager to work with them after we consider comprehensive cyber security legislation on the Senate floor."

To guard against the nation's increasing vulnerability to cyber attack, the Senators introduced bipartisan legislation earlier this year to secure the cyber systems of the essential services that keep our nation running.

The Cybersecurity Act of 2012, S. 2105, is the product of three years worth of hearings, consultations, and negotiations, and envisions a public-private partnership to secure those systems which if commandeered or destroyed by a cyber attack could cause mass deaths, evacuations, disruptions to life-sustaining services, or catastrophic damage to the economy or national security.

DHS has developed significant capabilities to defend our nation's cyber assets, working with other federal agencies, the private sector, academia, and state and local governments.   Over the past two years, DHS has increased the size of its cybersecurity workforce by 500 percent.  The Office of Cybersecurity and Communications is responsible for enhancing the security, resiliency, and reliability of the nation's cyber and communications infrastructure. 

 

The NCCIC is a 24/7 operations center responsible for the creation of a common operating picture for cybersecurity and communications across the federal, state, and local government, intelligence, and law enforcement communities and the private sector.  DHS also operates the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), which provides response and defense capabilities against cyber attacks for federal civilian networks (.gov) and private sector partners upon request.