Dow asks Congress for federal plan against cyber attacks

07 March 2013 22:27  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--Dow Chemical on Thursday urged Congress to allow information sharing among industries, swift prosecution of cyber criminals and a mandate for better computer security to combat commercial espionage and terrorism.

In testimony before a joint meeting of two Senate committees, Dow executive vice president and chief information officer David Kepler applauded the congressional effort to increase collaboration between government and the private sector to thwart cyber crime and terrorists' efforts to infiltrate key US infrastructure.

At a rare joint session of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and the chamber’s Commerce Committee, Kepler said that while Dow, other chemicals producers and the general manufacturing sector have invested heavily in cyber security, a broader private-public coordinated effort is needed.

“Industry must rely on the federal government to approach cyber security, working in partnership with other countries, to deploy an offensive perspective,” he told the panel.

That international effort, he said, should mount a global offensive to pre-empt cyber attacks when possible and to pursue and prosecute cyber criminals and terrorists.

He said that federal legislation to facilitate better defence against criminal or terrorist cyber threats must allow secure information sharing between industry peers and government security agencies.

But such legislation, he said, also must provide liability protection for companies that share potential attack information with government and antitrust exemptions for the exchange of threat information among firms.

“To help promote the flow of information,” he said, “information voluntarily provided by the private sector should be adequately protected from public disclosure.”

That means, he added, that “the unintended consequences of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests must be addressed”.

In addition, said Kepler, “cyber criminals and nation-state actors must not be allowed to continue to operate with relative impunity”.

Senator Tom Carper (Democrat-Delaware), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, cited a recent report by cyber security firm Mandiant that “points the finger for much of this cyber theft to a military unit in China”.

“Even more alarming,” said Carper, “are reports that hackers are constantly probing the companies that run our nation’s critical infrastructure – our electrical power grid, gas lines, water works and banking systems, among others.”

Once inside the network of a key infrastructure company, said Carper, hackers “could shut down our electric grid or release dangerous chemicals into our water supply”.

Kepler asked the joint panel to ensure that any federal cyber security law would be able to reach and punish cyber criminals and terrorists. “They must believe that there are consequences for their actions,” he said.

Lastly, Kepler urged a federal mandate for computer manufacturers, telecommunications providers and other information technology (IT) firms to participate by creating IT products that are inherently more secure.

The joint committee hearing was one of several that are expected to consider means of improving US protections against cyber crime and terrorist infiltration via the Internet and telecommunications.

By: Joe Kamalick
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