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U.S. Lawmarkers Mull on Reviving CISPA Following Sony Cyber Attack

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Democrat Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland is looking to revive a cyber security bill that was shelved two times in the Senate last year following massive public outcry against it.

In an interview with Washington publication The Hill on Friday, Jan. 9, Ruppersberger said he hopes to bring back the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).

As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Ruppersberger sponsored the bill in 2014 with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Republican Mike Rogers of Michigan, who has now retired from Congress.

The measure is intended to redefine the process by which government agencies share information with private companies in an effort to protect them from cyber attacks. This stems from the arguments made by industry groups and top intelligence officials that private companies by themselves do not have the resources to deal with massive intrusions.

"The reason I'm putting the bill in now is I want to keep the momentum going on what's happening out there in the world," Ruppersberger told The Hill. "I'm putting the bill in myself. Hopefully, that will create momentum."

The representative is referring to the catastrophic cyber attack that crippled Sony Pictures Entertainment's entire computer system in November. Federal investigators working on the case have concluded that the attack was masterminded by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in retaliation against the Hollywood studio's release of the comedy film The Interview, which revolves on a plot involving the assassination of the nation's leader.

While the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Security Agency (NSA) hold "very high confidence" that North Korea was behind the attack, private cyber security experts, however, question the conclusion, pointing out that it is founded on flimsy evidence.

Ruppersberger believes signing CISPA into law will help companies such as Sony Pictures deal better with attacks like this, but the bill will likely have several detractors. With the retirement of his Republican co-sponsor, the congressman admits he will need to do a lot of work to elicit bipartisan support.

With a Congress that is controlled by Republicans in both chambers, CISPA has a chance of making its way to the White House. Still, the president has been vocal about vetoing such a bill on the grounds that CISPA could make the privacy of individuals dispensable.

Private companies and advocacy groups have also raised their voices in the debate over the proposed legislation, arguing that CISPA could be abused to justify the NSA's overarching surveillance program, which was exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013.

"We must do everything within our power to safeguard the privacy rights of individual Internet users and ensure that Congress does not sacrifice those rights in a rush to pass vaguely worded cyber security bills," said Lee Tien, senior staff attorney of Electronic Freedom Frontier, when the bill was first passed in 2012.

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