Cyberthreat Bill Backers Threatened

Anonymous Declares Legislation Supporters as "Sworn Enemies"
Cyberthreat Bill Backers Threatened
An Anonymous video threatens backers of a cyber information sharing bill.

The hacktivist group Anonymous, in its latest posting, is threatening the "loved ones" of supporters of a Senate cyberthreat information sharing bill that critics contend weakens privacy protections.

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In a video posted on YouTube, Anonymous characterizes as its "sworn enemies" those supporting the bill, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2014.

"If you value the sanctity of your loved ones as well as your own, it would be best to you to back down and drop this bill, where it belongs out of our Congress," the video narrator says. "If not, we will be forced to show you our legion's extent. We will march through the streets, and we will make sure our voices keep you awake."

The U.S. Capitol Police is charged with protecting senators and representatives and investigates threats made against members of Congress. A Capitol Police spokesman, Officer Shennell Antrobus, seemed unaware of the Anonymous statement when contacted by telephone on June 30, and asked that information about and questions regarding the statement be e-mailed to him.

A few hours later, Antrobus responded by e-mail: "We certainly understand the questions posed; however, we generally refrain from sharing specific information related to our security posture as it is law enforcement sensitive and confidential in nature."

Unanswered Questions

Among the questions asked was whether the Capitol Police consider the statement as a threat against members of Congress and whether it's investigating the matter.

Telephone and e-mail queries about the Anonymous statement were made to Sens. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the chairwoman and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and prime sponsors of CISA. A spokesman for Feinstein didn't have an immediate comment. Chambliss' office did not respond.

An individual threatening to assault a public official, if convicted, could receive a prison sentence of up to six years.

The Anonymous video singled out Google, contending the Internet company had opposed similar legislation, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act known as CISPA, that passed the House of Representatives last year (House Handily Passes CISPA), but supports the Senate version. "Companies, like Google, will not stand with us as they have stood against CISPA as the bill conforms to them," the Anonymous narrator says. "Our legion's wrath will fall on each senator, representative, corporation and official, who voices support for this bill." (Google didn't respond to a request for comment.)

Anonymous maintains the legislation would jeopardize privacy and personal security across all forms of media. CISA, the Anonymous video claims, "has the power to allow governing authorities to search through and extract any form of data, public or private, from the Internet regardless of any privacy setting."

Privacy Rights Groups Oppose Bill

Late last week, a group of privacy protection and civil liberties groups came out against CISA (see Opposition to Info Sharing Bill Grow). Sandra Fulton of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office says the measure, if enacted, would create a massive loophole in the nation's existing privacy laws by allowing the government to ask companies for "voluntary" cooperation in sharing information, including the content of Americans' communications, for cybersecurity purposes. "But the definition they are using for the so-called 'cybersecurity information' is so broad it could sweep up huge amounts of innocent Americans' personal data," Fulton writes in a blog posted on the ACLU website.

Feinstein, though, contends the legislation would balance citizens privacy rights with the need to secure critical IT. "The bill would enable and encourage voluntary sharing of cybersecurity threat information," she said last week. "It includes numerous privacy protections to ensure individuals and companies do not inappropriately share personally identifying information and to protect against the government's use of voluntarily shared cybersecurity information outside of narrow cyber-related purposes."

The Senate Intelligence Committee had scheduled a markup session on CISA last week but a Feinstein spokesman said she postponed the business meeting where lawmakers debate, amend and vote on legislation because some senators left Washington early for the Independence Day holiday.

About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Retired Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Chabrow, who retired at the end of 2017, hosted and produced the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversaw ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.

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