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U.S. Senate advances bill to boost digital defense against cyber attacks

WASHINGTON, July 27 — The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted to move forward with the Cybersecurity Act in a bid to boost digital defense of critical U.S. infrastructure networks from cyber attacks and espionage.

The Senate approved with a vote of 84-11 the motion to allow the bill, sponsored by independent Senator Joe Lieberman, to proceed to the Senate floor for consideration after majority leader Harry Reid agreed to an open amendment process.

Lieberman's bill won the support of 34 Republicans, who voted for it after the removal of regulatory provisions which originally demanded companies running critical infrastructure, such as power grid, water supply facilities and banking systems, meet standards set by the Homeland Security Department.

Despite clearing a major procedural hurdle, the bill still faces an uphill battle before proceeding to a final vote, mainly due to opposition from some other Republicans.

U.S. President Barack Obama last Friday urged the Senate to pass the cybersecurity bill to prevent future cyber attacks, which he warned could paralyze the country by disrupting critical infrastructure networks.

Describing cyber attacks as a growing danger and "one of the most serious economic and national security challenges," Obama said that his administration has made boosting cyber-security a priority.

Obama said the legislation will make it easier for the government and critical infrastructure companies share data and information on cyber threat, so they can be better prepared.

The Cybersecurity Act, which was first proposed in February, calls for setting up the National Cybersecurity Council, to be chaired by Secretary of Homeland Security, to coordinate efforts to deal with the cyber threat.

But Republicans and business lobbyists, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, oppose the original version, citing it would harm the private companies that operate the critical infrastructure networks.

Five U.S. Senators introduced a modified version of the Cybersecurity Act last Thursday, in hope to gain more support for the bill, especially among the Republicans.

It makes the originally mandatory government-dictated security standards optional, while still calling for creation of the cybersecurity council to coordinate with owners of critical infrastructure companies on boosting cybersecurity. (PNA/Xinhua)

LOR/ebp

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