U.S. House approves $30 billion security blanket

Did you hear something?

The U.S House of Representatives has cast its vote in favor of sending $29.4 billion to the Homeland Security Department, and some Democrats don't think this is enough.

The House bill passed with overwhelming support - 425 votes in favor and just 2 against. The lawmakers want the funds to cover a variety of efforts in 2004, including bioterrorism research, improved security at borders and helping out firefighters and local law enforcement.

The funding would go to the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration, Customs Service and Border Patrol. The FBI and CIA are not included in the department.

While the bill received wide backing, some Democrats argued that $30 billion simply was not enough to keep us safe. There is more than a smidgen of paranoia in the air.

One security expert Wednesday urged Congress to make sure it directs enough funds to cybersecurity research. Bruce Schneier, founder and CTO of Counterpane Internet Security, testified at the Hearing of Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Science, and Research and Development.

Schneier warned that fending off cyber attacks is becoming more difficult as the hacker's tools improve and technology overall becomes more complex. He urged that taking companies to task for their failures to make secure products could be one way to help the situation.

"The major reason companies don't worry about the externalities of their security decisions, the effects of their insecure products and networks on others, is that there is no real liability for their actions," Schneier said in a statement. "Liability will immediately change the cost/benefit equation for companies, because they will have to bear financial responsibility for ancillary risks borne by others as a result of their actions. Liability is a common capitalistic mechanism to deal with externalities, and it will do more to secure our nation's critical infrastructure than any other action."

Why does the word "Redmond" keep coming to mind?

Schneier also called for more research into securing federal networks and developing better security tools.

So much to secure, so little time and money. ®

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