from the someone-buy-these-senators-a-clue dept
As we noted in our post, there are still some who are pushing in the other direction -- and they didn't waste much time. The very same day that Aaron's Law was introduced, Senators Mark Kirk and Kirsten Gillibrand introduced a competing law that appears to be a "We Should Have Threatened Aaron With More Years In Jail" Act. Okay, technically it's called the Data Breach Notification and Punishing Cyber Criminals Act -- and as I type this, no one seems willing to release the text. Both Senators have press releases out about the bill, but neither link to it, and Congress's website has a placeholder saying that it hasn't received the actual text yet either. Hopefully that will change soon.*
It's bizarre that they're lumping together data breach notifications and CFAA expansion in a single bill. These are two separate issues. And yet, from the press release quotes and the few small articles about these bills, it appears that everyone's focusing on the data breach notification stuff (which has its own problems) and thus we should be worried that the CFAA expansion could get included as something of a "throw in." The quotes, however, on this part of the bill are ridiculous. Here's Senator Kirk's press release:
This bipartisan legislation increases the maximum allowable fines and imprisonment for many of the most common cyber-crimes, including identity theft and theft of personal information. Current law does not sufficiently punish cyber criminals, and incidences like these recent devastating breaches of confidential information must be punished more aggressively. By modernizing these punishments, as many prosecutors have requested, we will better align punishments to the degree of harm that these crimes may inflict on victims.And Senator Gillibrand's:
The bill raises the maximum allowable fines and imprisonment for many of the statutes which cyber criminals are charged: identity theft, conspiracy to commit access device fraud, obtaining information from a protected computer without authorization and computer hacking with intent to defraud.It's the whole "obtaining information from a protected computer without authorization" that is a serious concern here, as that's part of what's been widely abused. Both Kirk and Gillibrand use a lot of populist rhetoric about protecting people from all these scary data breaches out there, but it demonstrates a serious ignorance of how widely the CFAA (with insanely large existing punishments) has been used repeatedly for activities no one legitimately thinks of as malicious hacking. Furthermore, it suggests a pretty serious cluelessness about the incentives and motivations of those who commit many of those breaches. Increasing the number of years they could spend in time from crazily high to insanely high isn't going to change a damn thing. And if these two Senators can't understand that, they shouldn't be touching the CFAA at all.
* As an aside, it's plainly ridiculous for anyone to announce a new bill without releasing the actual text. Even more ridiculous: in searching for the text of the actual bill on both Senators websites, I note that the very first item highlighted on Senator Gillibrand's website is "Transparency" where it says "Senator Gillibrand believes that more openness and transparency in government leads to more accountability and better results." Well, you know what might helps with that transparency? If you actually release the text of the bills you're introducing when you introduce them so that people can take a look at them.