Panelists call for more work on cybersecurity, no mandates

Government and industry experts on Tuesday reinforced the industry mantra that regulation to improve cyber security would only do harm. But all agreed that more work needs to be done to adequately address computer-security problems.

"I'm very concerned that we haven't gotten there yet," Chrisan Herrod, chief security officer at the Securities and Exchange Commission, said of the adoption of cybersecurity standards at the highest levels. "CEOs in America still don't get it as much as you'd think they would, given the events of the last three years."

Herrod also said she was "appalled" at the process across all agencies for vetting people who have access to secure information.

At a Capitol Hill panel forum on cybersecurity, Robert Holleyman, president and CEO of the Business Software Alliance, and others called for greater awareness-raising to get businesses and individuals to "lock their doors" to computer attacks. Holleyman said the United States remains the world leader on cyber security.

Bob Dix, staff director for the House Government Reform Committee's Technology Subcommittee, urged greater adherence to existing laws. He said the subcommittee's chairman, Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., is looking at whether a section of a 2002 law aimed at improving corporate accountability could reasonably be extended to apply to cyber security.

He also said information security needs to be elevated to the boardroom level. "There are still far too many people that view IT security as a technology issue instead of a business management issue," Dix said.

He said the committee is looking at an incentive package to reward agencies that take steps to protect information. One possibility is a temporary "safe harbor" from liability if something goes wrong. The panel also is working on metrics to determine whether agencies are making progress and considering an investment tax credit for companies that make cybersecurity upgrades, Dix said.

Agencies and information security companies are working to spread the word and develop better industry "best practices." But further whittling of those best practices is needed, panelists said.

Jeffrey Goldthorp, chief of the network technology division at the FCC, said the Network Reliability and Interoperability Council has developed about 700 practices, including some 300 for homeland security. The FCC is working to determine which practices apply to which industry sectors, he said. Goldthorp also said he is traveling around and speaking to companies, while also doing online seminars with associations for small businesses.

Laura DeMartino, the FTC's legal adviser on cyber security, said her agency is spreading awareness but also has an enforcement role. But it is not "playing a 'gotcha game'" for companies in violation, she said.