US & Canada

Cyber security plan proposed by White House

Government workers stand in front of a screen at the Department of Homeland Security
Image caption US officials have said government and private systems are attacked millions of times per day

The White House has proposed legislation to protect the country from cyber attacks by hackers, criminals and spies.

Under the plan, companies that run infrastructure like power plants and financial systems would get incentives to make sure their systems are secure.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would also have the authority to impose its own security on industry.

Similar legislation is already being discussed by Congress.

US officials have said government and private systems are attacked millions of times per day.

Too weak?

The plans are designed to counter threats such as foreign nations attempting to steal sensitive data and computer hackers attacking financial institutions.

The White House proposal would empower the DHS to step in and develop security systems for institutions like financial and energy firms, if US officials felt the companies failed to have adequate measures.

An independent organisation would then be brought in to evaluate the security measures.

Some business leaders have said they would prefer a voluntary programme rather than government mandates.

The administration hopes the bill will be passed this year.

But other critics say the plan is too weak and lacks a sense of urgency.

Former senior Homeland Security official Stewart Baker told the Associated Press news agency: "It tells even critical industries on which our lives and society depend that they will have years before anyone from government begins to evaluate their security measures."

Various House and Senate committees have been working on cyber security legislation for the past two years, waiting for the Obama administration to propose its own version.

The two proposals differ in that the House and Senate want the White House cyber co-ordinator to be subject to Senate confirmation, while the White House has rejected that idea.

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