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Editorial: Delaying cybersecurity bill is too risky

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) has been leading effort pass cybersecurity bill Senate because “threis so real.”  |

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) has been leading the effort to pass the cybersecurity bill in the Senate because “the threat is so real.” | J. Scott Applewhite~AP

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Updated: September 7, 2012 6:09AM

Security experts agree America’s infrastructure and military operations are vulnerable to cyberattacks, so it’s worrisome that Congress has chosen to ignore the risk for now.

Cyberattacks, which occur when malicious computer code attacks software, already are commonplace. What alarms security experts is that a successful large-scale attack could cripple the United States. They worry as well about electronic espionage, which essentially can transfer wealth from America to other nations.

The power of cyberattacks was illustrated in Iran, where the Stuxnet computer worm damaged that nation’s uranium enrichment infrastructure.

And that was a narrowly targeted attack that left Iran’s other electronic systems alone.

Imagine the chaos here if coordinated attacks took down America’s electrical grids, nuclear power plants, water supplies, communications, transportation systems and other critical industries, all of which rely on software.

Life in New Orleans in the days right after Katrina, anyone?

Security officials from both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations fear America’s existing digital infrastructure security is the 21st century version of the Maginot Line, a defense system that is too easy to circumvent.

But when Congress took up cybersecurity in the current session, its first reaction was to water it down. Then, Republicans filibustered it this week until the clock ran out. The bill, which would set cybersecurity standards for industry, is unlikely to come up again this year.

Republicans and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce objected to the role the Homeland Security Department and other agencies would play in setting standards for businesses.

But leaving it to private industries to manage our defenses is what we have been doing, and they have not invested the necessary money.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), who led the effort to pass the bill in the Senate, said attempts to reach an agreement will continue because “the threat is so real.”

He’s right. Cybersecurity is as essential to America’s defense as aircraft carriers and standing armies.

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