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America is under attack.

Not by guns and bombs, but by ruthless and skilled electronic thugs. Every day they come in waves, probing the computer network defenses of our banks, our hospitals, insurance companies and government agencies, seeking to exploit, destroy or steal the data we have entrusted to those institutions.

The list of known victims is long: Sony, Target, JPMorgan Chase, the State Department and the White House. And millions of ordinary Americans.

The damage they inflict is real and costly. Businesses have lost billions in recovery costs and the value of intellectual property; customer bank accounts and identities have been confiscated. Alarmingly, cyberattacks have also exposed vulnerabilities in the technology and utility infrastructure we all rely on to conduct our daily lives.

Legislation before the U.S. House of Representatives this week is aimed at countering cybercrime by giving our institutions the tools they need to react to threats quickly, forcefully and in concert.

Specifically, legislation (HR 1731) that came out of the Homeland Security Committee on which I serve as vice chairman, provides liability protections for those in the private sector who voluntarily share cyber threat indicators with others in the private sector and through Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center.

Doing so will allow data managers the tools they need to share information about threats, and to protect their (and our) information from cyber criminals.

Past efforts to shore up cybersecurity have foundered over concerns that sharing information could lead to violations of privacy or unconstitutional government surveillance. Those concerns are addressed in this new legislation.

Under our bill, companies are expressly prohibited from sharing personally identifiable information contained in their databases. Such information must be removed before information pertaining to a security threat can be shared.

It is also important to note that Homeland Security’s Integration Center is not a government regulatory, investigatory or surveillance agency.

The purpose of this legislation is to prevent cyberattacks on our personal bank and credit card information, on our power grids and on the networks through which we manage our affairs in the 21st century. It does not expand access, for either government or private agencies, to our private information. It does protect that information from those intent on doing us harm.

Our reliance on cyberspace to perform the vital tasks of everyday life has grown exponentially over the last two decades. Our enemies, and the criminal underworld, have responded accordingly by making cyberspace their battlefield of choice. Unfortunately, our defense capabilities have not always kept pace.

It is my belief that the cybersecurity legislation under consideration in the House will help re-balance the scales and give us reassurance that those we trust with our data will be able to protect it.

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Shelby Township, represents the 10th District.

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