A threat by the hacktivist group Anonymous over a new cybersecurity bill scheduled for committee markup next month is being taken seriously by the Washington D.C. capitol police.
The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014 (CISA), authored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), is being labelled by many constitutional groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), as the third installment of a much-despised piece of Internet legislation widely known as CISPA.
CISPA, or the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, was a hugely unpopular bill that has twice been dropped by the U.S. Senate. As a law, it would have permitted the U.S. government to share sensitive information with companies about the online habits of U.S. citizens, specifically, when deemed necessary to protect against rather ambiguously defined “cyber threats.”
Opponents of CISPA, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Fight for the Future, successfully derailed CISPA by painting it as a danger to American civil liberties. The bill, critics said, would have allowed the federal government too broad authority when it came to tracking users’ online activities.
Like its predecessor, CISA also allows the federal government to share information perceived as “cyber threats” with private companies. The recipients would also have considerable latitude when it comes to sharing the information with law enforcement agencies. Companies would enjoy extensive liability protection for information they share with the government as well, which means customers who feel their rights have been violated may have little or no legal recourse.
“It has come to our attention that Congress is planning to pass a bill that will jeopardize privacy and personal security across all forms of media,” Anonymous’ message against CISA supporters began. “We would like to inform you that despite our direct and crippling attacks on former cybersecurity bills like SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA, there is yet a new threat.”
What likely caught the attention of law enforcement wasn’t the theatrics typical of Anonymous videos, but a threat expressed later in the message: “Our legion’s wrath will fall on each senator, representative, corporation, and official who voices support for this bill… If you value the sanctity of your loved ones as well as your own, it will be best for you to back down and drop this bill where it belongs.”
Capitol police, charged with the protection of U.S. senators and congressmen, became aware of Anonymous’ response to the bill on Monday, but said their policy is not to comment on any security protocols or investigations that may be taking place in response to threats.
Sens. Feinstein and Chambliss could not be immediately reached for comment.
Photo via edans/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)