Editorial: Hacker Smackdown

Congress needs to act, and act now, to provide rules of the road for companies facing hackers and hacktivists and nation states and kids in their basements.

Capitol Hill legislators from both sides of the aisle appeared to understand that last week as they pledged to find common ground and pass laws providing a national standard for data security and breach notification in a world of interconnected things. There was talk of bipartisan approaches and points of agreement.

But then the old divides surfaced, and Democrats and Republicans appeared to be still staking out their turf. Pleas for bipartisanship morphed, at least a bit, toward disagreement over how to create the data security standard; whether or how it should preempt a patchwork of state regs; when folks should be informed about breaches; and more.

These are all important issues two sides can disagree about. But it is crucial to the future of not just communications, but the economy and national security, that Congress find a way to thread the needle and sew up some online protections that are consistent across sectors and are enforceable.

It was a bit discouraging to see the same old divisions, given the rising tide of attacks and the interconnectedness of Internet of Everything devices.

We agree with one witness last week that there is no magic bullet. But there should be a shield that everyone agrees needs to be hammered out. A national standard should be flexible, and enforceable. It should be able to get bipartisan support if Democrats and Republicans can set aside their political point-scoring long enough to do what’s best for all.