© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Blunt says Congress needs to act on cyber security

Remko van Dokkum | Flickr

It will be this fall at the earliest before Congress begins negotiating provisions in a cyber-security bill. U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., says he’s disappointed a bill wasn’t ready to be debated next week, before senators leave town for their month-long August break. The House left Wednesday night.

Extended debate on the Senate highway bill meant there wasn’t time for Senate to consider a cyber-security bill. Blunt says he’s not sure the House even had a bill for negotiators to discuss. “I hope we do have that debate early in the fall and produce a bill that provides more security than we currently have in cyber space,” Blunt said to reporters this week.

Blunt is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and says cyber attacks happen all the time, but mostly go unnoticed by the public. He says Congress will have to explain why it didn’t act sooner if there is a significant attack felt by the public before this fall, such as against the country’s electric grid or the “financial infrastructure, something that will have even worse consequences than we’ve seen in the cyber-attacks that we’ve already had … And at that point, of course, every member of Congress will say there’s somebody to blame for not having gotten to this already,” Blunt said.

2015 is already a big year for data breaches. In March, a data breach exposed 80 million customer records at Anthem Health Insurance. That news came the same morning a Senate panel was taking testimony from several witnesses on how quickly corporations should be required to inform the customers and the public about data breaches that may compromise their personal and financial information.

In June, the Office of Personnel Management announced that it too had been hacked, with an attack that started at least in March and possibly earlier, resulting in private information about more than 21 million federal employees, their relatives and government contractors being stolen.

Blunt says a Senate committee has approved legislation providing victims of the OPM breach with at least 10 years of credit monitoring and ID theft protection.

Gen. Darren McDew, the newly confirmed head of the U.S. Transportation Command headquartered at Scott Air Force Base, told a Senate panel a few weeks ago during his confirmation hearing that he sees cyber-security as a major issue needing to be addressed. At the time, McDew explained that, while the command had already taken steps, 90 percent of the business the command does with private companies takes place over the Internet. He said a cyber attack could disrupt the military's ability to ship equipment and supplies to service members around the world.