US beefs up cyber laws -

The US House Intelligence Committee passed a bill to remove legal barriers that have stopped the government and private companies from protecting their networks against foreign hackers.

According to the LA Times, representative Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the committee said the modified bill had a better chance of winning support in the Senate this year after privacy concerns derailed similar legislation last year. Ruppersberger said that a year after the failed bill, politicians were waking up to the fact that cyber war is getting more serious. He told hundreds of industry executives at a cyber conference hosted by the Space Foundation that the government estimates that US businesses had lost more than $400 billion in intellectual property to cyber spies.

Congressman Jim Langevin, co-founder of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, said the new bill included measures aimed at ensuring private information was not unwittingly exposed during any information-sharing between industry and government. For instance, the bill encourages the private sector to "anonymise" or "minimise" the information it voluntarily shares with the government, and authorises and encourages the government to create procedures to protect privacy. It also puts in place restrictions on the use, retention, and searching of any data voluntarily shared by the private sector with the government, and permits individuals to sue the federal government for any such disclosures.

The law has the backing of large tech companies such as Intel, Oracle and IBM. But the  American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and an association of smaller tech companies and grass-roots activists known as Fight for the Future, have already launched a digital campaign against it.

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian released a video and online petition calling for tech companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter to oppose the bill.