Groups urge Obama to oppose cyberthreat sharing bills

They say the Senate's CISA cyberthreat information sharing bill would allow businesses to share too much information

Digital rights group Fight for the Future has launched an old-school fax campaign opposing CISA, a cyberthreat sharing bill.

Digital rights group Fight for the Future has launched an old-school fax campaign opposing CISA, a cyberthreat sharing bill.

U.S. President Barack Obama should oppose legislation intended to let businesses share cyberthreat information with each other and with government agencies because the bill would allow the sharing of too much personal information, a coalition of digital rights groups and security experts said.

The coalition of 39 digital rights and privacy groups and 29 security experts urged Obama to threaten to veto the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), a bill that may come to the Senate floor for a vote by early August. CISA would protect from customer lawsuits those businesses that share cyberthreat information.

"CISA fails to protect users' personal information," the coalition said in a letter to Obama, sent Monday. "It allows vast amounts of personal data to be shared with the government, even that which is not necessary to identify or respond to a cybersecurity threat."

The groups compared CISA to the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a cyberthreat sharing bill that the House of Representatives approved in 2013. CISPA failed to become law after Obama threatened to veto it.

Backers of CISA and similar bills say the sharing of cyberthreat information is necessary for businesses and government agencies to respond to ongoing attacks.

"We cannot continue to have citizens' personal information needlessly exposed to foreign adversaries and criminals," Senator Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican and main sponsor of CISA, said in June. "We can no longer simply watch Americans' personal information continue to be compromised."

A spokeswoman for Burr didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter opposing CISA.

CISA has several problems, the groups said in their letter: It would allow government agencies to use information shared by businesses to investigate crimes unrelated to cyberattacks, and it allows the cyberthreat information to be shared with the National Security Agency and other surveillance agencies.

In addition, CISA would "undermine Internet security" by allowing businesses to deploy countermeasures during cyberattacks, even if those defensive actions would otherwise be illegal under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Among the groups signing the letter to Obama were the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute. Security experts signing the letter included Ronald Rivest, a computer science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Bruce Schneier, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University; and Dan Wallach, a computer science professor at Rice University.

Fight the Future, one of the groups signing the letter, has set up, encouraging U.S. residents to call or fax senators in opposition to the bill.

CISA is a "dirty deal that turns Facebook and Google into government spies that are totally immune from the law," the group said on the website.

"Congress is so out of touch with modern technology that they're introducing vulnerabilities into the Internet they can't even begin to fix," the group said. "If they're going to be this 1984-surveillance backwards, we're going to turn any text or tweet into faxes to the whole U.S. Senate until they stop. Hopefully that's old enough tech they can understand."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags New America FoundationDan WallachRichard BurrlegislationRice UniversityBarack ObamaExploits / vulnerabilitiesbruce schneierprivacyElectronic Frontier Foundationharvard universityAmerican Civil Liberties UnionRonald RivestsecurityMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCenter for Democracy and Technologygovernmentdata protectionU.S. SenateFight the Future

More about Electronic Frontier FoundationFacebookGoogleHarvard UniversityHouse of RepresentativesIDGMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyNational Security AgencyNewsRice UniversityTechnologyTwitter

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Grant Gross

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts