Cybersecurity Information Sharing: A Legal Morass, Says CRS

03.23.15 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Several pending bills would promote increased sharing of cybersecurity-related information — such as threat intelligence and system vulnerabilities — in order to combat the perceived rise in the frequency and intensity of cyber attacks against private and government entities.

But such information sharing is easier said than done, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service, because it involves a thicket of conflicting and perhaps incompatible laws and policy objectives.

“The legal issues surrounding cybersecurity information sharing… are complex and have few certain resolutions.” A copy of the CRS report was obtained by Secrecy News. See Cybersecurity and Information Sharing: Legal Challenges and Solutions, March 16, 2015.

Cyber information sharing takes at least three different forms: the release of cyber intelligence from government to the private sector, information sharing among private entities, and the transfer of threat information from private entities to government agencies.

“While collectively these three variants on the concept of cyber-information sharing have some commonalities, each also raises separate legal challenges that may impede cyber-intelligence dissemination more generally,” said the CRS report, which examines the legal ramifications of each category in turn.

Among the concerns at issue are: the potential for liability associate with disclosure of cybersecurity information, inappropriate release of private information through open government laws, loss of intellectual property, and potential compromise of personal privacy rights.

All of these create a legal morass that may be unreconcilable.

“A fundamental question lawmakers may need to contemplate is how restrictions that require close government scrutiny and control over shared cyber-information can be squared with other goals of cyber-information sharing legislation, like requirements that received information be disseminated in an almost instantaneous fashion,” the CRS report said.

“Ultimately, because the goals of cyber-information legislation are often diametrically opposed, it may simply be impossible for information sharing legislation to simultaneously promote the rapid and robust collection and dissemination of cyber-intelligence by the federal government, while also ensuring that the government respects the property and privacy interests implicated by such information sharing,” the report said.

Other new or newly updated CRS reports that Congress has withheld from public distribution include the following.

Cybersecurity: Authoritative Reports and Resources, by Topic, March 13, 2015

EPA’s Proposed Clean Power Plan: Conversion to Mass-Based Emission Targets, March 17, 2015

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): A Primer for the 114th Congress, March 17, 2015

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2016, March 18, 2015

The Federal Communications Commission: Current Structure and Its Role in the Changing Telecommunications Landscape, March 16, 2015

Mandatory Spending Since 1962, March 18, 2015

Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations, March 17, 2015

Balancing Tourism against Terrorism: The Visa Waiver Program, CRS Insights, March 13, 2015

U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues, March 18, 2015


See all publications
Nuclear Weapons
New Voices on Nuclear Weapons Fellowship: Creative Perspectives on Rethinking Nuclear Deterrence 

To empower new voices to start their career in nuclear weapons studies, the Federation of American Scientists launched the New Voices on Nuclear Weapons Fellowship. Here’s what our inaugural cohort accomplished.

11.28.23 | 3 min read
read more
Science Policy
Expected Utility Forecasting for Science Funding

Common frameworks for evaluating proposals leave this utility function implicit, often evaluating aspects of risk, uncertainty, and potential value independently and qualitatively.

11.20.23 | 11 min read
read more
Nuclear Weapons
Nuclear Notebook: Nuclear Weapons Sharing, 2023

The FAS Nuclear Notebook is one of the most widely sourced reference materials worldwide for reliable information about the status of nuclear weapons and has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by the staff of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project: Director Hans […]

11.17.23 | 1 min read
read more
Social Innovation
Community School Approach Reaches High of 60%, Reports Latest Pulse Panel

According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ August 2023 pulse panel, 60% of public schools were utilizing a “community school” or “wraparound services model” at the start of this school year—up from 45% last year.

11.17.23 | 4 min read
read more