Getty Images

It’s Time for a Cybersecurity Quid Pro Quo

Require companies to disclose breaches to the government in exchange for legal liability limitations.

The most intriguing suggestion at the first Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on the SolarWinds attack came toward the end. 

It seems to have bipartisan support. It would have a tremendous impact on our ability as a nation to quickly respond to attacks like SolarWinds that threaten both government agencies and businesses large and small, public and private. It’s been debated for years, but finally has a chance of coming to fruition. 

It’s a mandatory, national data breach reporting law. It’s not every day that top executives of major technology companies openly call for more regulations on themselves. Of course, it wasn’t without a condition: They would commit to disclosing breaches to the government in exchange for legal liability limitations. 

This is a major step toward the centralized cyber threat intelligence sharing we’ve long needed. Of course, as the committee Chairman Mark Warner pointed out, offering legal protection for disclosures could lead to “sloppy behavior” among companies. This is why we need a cybersecurity quid pro quo. 

Require the disclosure of breaches—something we’ve long needed. Grant businesses limited legal liability—a reasonable incentive. But require businesses to meet minimum cybersecurity standards as a condition for those liability concessions. 

I’ve seen the issue of data breach reporting from every angle. I was a global CISO for the second-largest defense contractor in the world and an early customer of Mandiant before it was acquired by FireEye. I’ve lived the difficulty of breach notification, ITAR breach issues, and the political and legal challenges of notification while trying to run an operational response. As a founding member of an early public-private partnership with the Department of Defense, I came to understand all the policy and legal issues inherent in threat information sharing, from notification to reporting to sharing tactics. 

Now we have an opportunity to strengthen our defenses against cyber threats that continue to grow in frequency and severity. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly, including companies that have spent next to nothing on cybersecurity because no one has ever required them to. 

Just as every car on the road has to comply with the same minimums for safety and security, businesses that are granted limited liability must prove they’re taking certain levels of precaution. Carmakers don’t get to decide the specifications for brakes, airbags and seatbelts; businesses should no longer be allowed to ignore basic cybersecurity practices.  

We can’t fine and publicly shame our way to a more secure infrastructure. Instead, we need to incentivize it. We already have a model for how to do so. Ohio’s 2018 Data Protection Act motivated businesses to pursue stronger cybersecurity practices in exchange for liability protections in the event of a breach. The same should hold true at the federal level. If companies meet target standards, the government should absolutely extend legal protections in the event of a breach and use this structure and system to create standardized and centralized reporting and sharing of threat intelligence. 

We also have a model for breach notification requirements that have been in place for many years for defense contractors. The Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement requires defense contractors to notify the DOD of any cybersecurity incidents within 72 hours. It would need updating, but is a strong base on which to build a national reporting requirement. The DOD’s public-private partnership with the defense industrial base is one that other agencies and industries can learn from.  

A cybersecurity quid pro quo would establish a public-private partnership that would enhance our ability to defend against and mitigate breaches like SolarWinds. It would create early alarms through disclosures that could limit the scope of future breaches. It would encourage those disclosures by legally protecting the companies participating. And it would ensure every company participating was taking at least minimal security precautions. 

It would be a win for the public and private sector, for American intellectual property, and for national security, and would be a strong step toward preventing the next SolarWinds-scale attack. 

Eric Noonan is the chief executive officer of CyberSheath and served as a Marine and in the CIA.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.