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WASHINGTON (AP) - Cybersecurity experts urged senators Thursday to close loopholes in legislation to give the government more power to force critical industries to make their computer networks more secure.
Experts told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said the bill could allow many companies to avoid regulation entirely or drag out the process for up to eight years before they would actually have to improve their computer security.
The legislation would limit the number of industries subject to regulation to those in which a cyberattack could cause "an extraordinary number of fatalities" or a "severe degradation" of national security.
"So an individual infrastructure owner, such as a rural electricity provider, has no responsibility under this title if it can show that an undefended cyberattack would only cause an ordinary number of fatalities?" said Stewart Baker, a former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security who is now with the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson. "How many dead Americans is that, exactly?"
A former Nortel Networks employee says the Canadian government needs to help the company investigate the hacking and spying that he believes contributed to its downfall.
Brian Shields, the company's former senior systems security adviser, says the governments of Canada and China should investigate an attack that he calls a "considerable factor" in Nortel's bankruptcy.
The government itself isn't immune, either. The same hackers that hit PotashCorp computers also attacked the Canadian government in fall 2010, targeting servers in the Finance Department, the Treasury Board, and Defence Research and Development Canada, a civilian agency of the Department of National Defence.