infoTECH Feature

November 03, 2015

What You Need to Know About the New Cybersecurity Bill

A cybersecurity bill is making the rounds that will supposedly put measures in place to help better protect people from hackers and unscrupulous individuals. The bill, called the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, passed through the Senate with a 74 to 21 vote in favor. Before President Barack Obama can sign it — and make it a law — it needs to be merged with another bill passed earlier by the House of Representatives that’s similar, and then the new proposition must be voted on again.

The Pros and Cons of the Bill

Those supporting the bill believe it will allow government agencies and private businesses to collaborate by sharing pertinent information related to hackers and cyber attacks. As such attacks have become commonplace, it would allow agencies to collect more information on the perpetrators and organize the appropriate countermeasures.

However, critics warn this is just another bill worded carefully to allow government agencies to violate rights and collect personal information on its citizens. They also believe the half-baked measures employed in the bill would not prevent security breaches from happening, and so their only real purpose is to spy.

The latter issue is a concern because the bill does not explicitly mention how such information would be collected or stored, or, worse yet, who would be in control of said information.

Big-Name Doubters

Critics of the bill include several mainstream technology companies, such as Twitter (News - Alert), Apple and Google, who believe the bill would only increase government spying. Edward Snowden believes the CISA bill would provide “companies legal immunity for violating privacy laws if they also give your data to the government.”

This is not the first time such a bill was pushed through legislative channels. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) was introduced in 2011 and failed to make it past the voting process. CISA, or the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, is essentially an updated version of the original CISPA bill.

Whether this bill passes or not, it just goes to show we should all be more concerned with our own privacy and security when it comes to digital information. While you do sacrifice some manner of privacy by browsing the Internet, that doesn’t mean you should be reckless.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

For starters, make sure no one else has access to your computer by using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN service. You can also protect your browsing habits through such a service, which would essentially mask websites and addresses you visit while online.

Scan your computer regularly for viruses, malware and spyware, and ensure it remains clean and free of such problems. Try to avoid downloading and installing free software, especially any that tries to install third-party applications alongside it.

Avoid making any online purchases, checking bank account info, or logging in to sensitive accounts that do not use a secure connection. You can tell if the connection is secure because the URL will start with “HTTPS” and will be highlighted green. In short, it means any and all traffic is being encrypted, which is nearly impossible to breach.

As for government tracking, hiding behind a VPN or proxy would be your best bet. Depending on which VPN service you choose, however, it is possible for agencies to track down what you are doing and when. It just means you have to be prepared to give up some amount of privacy to use the Internet, which is undoubtedly a shame.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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