WASHINGTON—Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Monday explored the growing threat of cyber crime to small and mid-sized businesses at a hearing focused on how the federal government can help businesses defend themselves against attacks. Lieberman and Collins are currently drafting legislation that will address this and other cyber security issues.

             “The successful computer experiment 40 years ago that gave us this interconnected world has also given us a global wave of cyber crime that threatens both our national security and the integrity of our economic security,” Lieberman said.  “A public-private partnership to defend the integrity of cyberspace is essential. Together, business, government, and law enforcement throughout the world must come together to deter these attacks and bring these criminals to justice.

             “The legislation this Committee is currently drafting will address cyber attacks against individuals, businesses, and government.”

             Collins said: “Technology is transforming our culture, our nation, and our world.  While we enjoy its many benefits and most people cannot imagine life without computer technology, we also must be aware of the risks and dangers posed by this new world.  For every communications advance, there also is the risk that the technology will be misused and exploited.  Indeed, experts estimate that cyber crime may cost our global economy $1 trillion in losses—nearly $8 billion of that in the United States.  Protecting our cyberspace has become critically important.  Thankfully, there has not yet been a ‘cyber 9/11,’ but information technology vulnerabilities are regularly exploited to steal billions of dollars, disrupt government and business operations, and engage in acts of espionage, including theft of business, government and personal data.  These incidents can be devastating to our national security, erode our economic foundations, and ruin personal lives.”  Collins added that recent cyber crimes “should prompt the federal government to get organized and make cyber security a higher priority” while working toward building “a strong, public-private partnership to ensure the security of this vital engine of our economy.”

             The hearing, “Cyber Attacks: Protecting Industry Against Growing Threats,” featured testimony from: Robert O. Carr, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Heartland Payment Systems, Inc.; William B. Nelson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center; Michael Merritt, Assistant Director, Office of Investigations, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and Philip Reitinger, Deputy Under Secretary, National Protection and Programs Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.