In his fourth State of the Union address, given in the House of Representatives Chamber on Capitol Hill on January 25, President Barack Obama touched on many topics and sounded a call to action among Congress and public citizens alike. And while its prominence in the more than 1-hour-long speech was overshadowed by the likes of the economy and job market, technology was still among the areas Obama discussed as he begins a crucial election year.
Specifically, the president reiterated his administration's stance on data security, and the need for all stakeholders to take steps to protect against cyberattacks. Obama especially called on members of Congress to do their part and pass new cybersecurity legislation.
"To stay one step ahead of our adversaries, I’ve already sent this Congress legislation that will secure our country from the growing dangers of cyberthreats," the president said to a round of applause from both sides of the political aisle.
It was a small reference in an otherwise sea of platform stances and political sparring, but it highlights the attention that cybersecurity is now receiving in the United States.
No longer is the issue of cybercrime or cyberwarfare being swept under the table or left up to private-sector companies to worry about. Though progress has been slow, cybersecurity has been an issue on Congress' docket for some time, and is one that some members would like to see moved to the top.
Among them is Connecticut Independent Joseph Lieberman. Shortly after Obama concluded his State of the Union address, Lieberman released a statement commending the president for addressing the issue of Internet security.
"The President's call for Congress to pass cybersecurity legislation underscores the pressing nature of securing the government's cyber systems and networks – and a limited number of private sector networks that touch the lives of all Americans," Lieberman said. "This is nothing less than a matter of national security. The secretary of defense has warned that the next Pearl Harbor could be a cyberattack."
The Senate veteran from Connecticut – also the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee – has not been alone in his call for more focus on the cyberthreats facing the American infrastructure. Lieberman's proposed Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act of 2011 has been endorsed by Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller, an influential Democrat from West Virginia.
Rockefeller released a statement of his own applauding the president's mention of cybersecurity a day following the speech.
"As Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, I fully support efforts to protect our national security by passing cybersecurity legislation," he said, according to the Hill. "I have been working for years to address our country's vulnerability to cyberattacks and believe now is the time for Congress to act."
Other senators who have joined the efforts of Lieberman and Rockefeller include Maine Republican Susan Collins and Delaware Democrat Tom Carper. In his statement following the State of the Union, Lieberman said the group will continue to work both together and with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada to hammer out cybersecurity legislation.
However, with 2012 serving being a critical election year, it remains to be seen if much will come of these efforts.
Obama began putting the heat on Congress back in October, when he told lawmakers it was time to get serious about proposed legislation. That stance was reflected in a White House blog post by cybersecurity coordinator and special assistant to the president Howard Schmidt, who said the country can ill afford to ignore increasing cyberthreats.
Data Security News from SimplySecurity.com by Trend Micro