There are currently three major cybersecurity-related bills pending in the 114th Congress that address information sharing among private entities and between private entities and the federal government: the Protecting Cyber Networks Act (PCNA), H.R. 1560, the National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act of 2015 (NCPAA), H.R. 1731, and the Cyber Security Information Act of 2015 (CISA), S. 754. Some of the key issues that need to be resolved across these bills include: which agency will be designated as the lead as a clearinghouse for cyber threat information, what liability protections will be granted to those companies that do share information, and whether the structures established under any of these bills will also facilitate greater sharing of government threat information with the private sector. Although the bills all provide that existing reporting requirements will not be disturbed, such as those for Department of Defense “(DOD”) contractors, it remains unclear how these different reporting schemes will interact. Similarly, these bills do not address a provision in the House version of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act that would provide liability protection to certain DOD contractors for properly reporting cyber incidents on their networks and information systems.
Restrictions on the sharing of cyber threat and vulnerability information are often raised as significant barriers to effective cybersecurity. But the sharing of such information is not without risk. In particular, private entities have raised concerns about how the government would use this information and whether such disclosures could result in antitrust, privacy or other legal complications. These bills look to increase incentives for cooperation between the government and the private sector in fending off cyber-attacks by encouraging private companies to voluntarily share information about the particular traits of cyber-attacks—what the bills refer to as “cyber threat indicators”—that they have previously encountered. In response to some of the concerns previously voiced by industry, these bills provide civil suit immunity for private entities that elect to share their information with each other and with the government. The bills also contain liability protection for contractors who monitor government computer systems. What follows is a brief comparison of all three major bills and why their different approaches may or may not benefit government contractors.