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Trump Signs Executive Order To Upgrade US Cyber Defences

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Cyber defences of US government agencies to be upgraded after President Trump orders order

Federal governmental agencies of the United States could soon become harder to hack into after President Trump signed an executive order to upgrade their cyber defences.

Improving the cyber defence of the US had been a key election promise by Trump, and he had intended to sign the order in January, but delayed it to allow for expert consultation and input from federal agencies.

The most notable hack on the US government in recent times was the attack on the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in April 2015, that compromised the personal data of 21.5 million US government employees, including more than 5 million fingerprints.

Donald TrumpExecutive Order

The executive order signed by Trump not only intends to the US government’s cyber security, but it also seeks to protect critical infrastructure, such as the energy grid and financial sector, from cyber attacks.

And Trump issued a stark warning for US government leaders, just days after he stunned Washington with the high profile sacking of the FBI Director, James Comey.

“The executive branch operates its information technology (IT) on behalf of the American people,” said the order. “Its IT and data should be secured responsibly using all United States Government capabilities. The President will hold heads of executive departments and agencies (agency heads) accountable for managing cybersecurity risk to their enterprises.”

Trump said in his order that for too long the US government had “accepted antiquated and difficult–to-defend IT”.

“Effective immediately, it is the policy of the executive branch to build and maintain a modern, secure, and more resilient executive branch IT architecture,” the order states.

“Within 90 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the United States Trade Representative, in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence, shall jointly submit a report to the President, through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, on the Nation’s strategic options for deterring adversaries and better protecting the American people from cyber threats,” it stated.

It also pledged to work with “allies and partners” to help tighten up cyber defences.

It promises to be a busy three months for US government leaders.

Within the next 90 days they will have to use a framework developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to assess and manage cyber risk, and prepare a report documenting how they will implement it.

Cyber Threats

The executive order has been apparently welcomed by cyber experts and industry groups according to Reuters.

It cited White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert, who said the order sought to build on efforts undertaken by the former Obama administration with the private sector, but now these effort must be applied this to US government agencies as well.

Hacking threats against the US government have been ongoing for a number of years now. Matters got so bad that former President Obama in 2015 used an executive order to create a sanctions scheme against hackers.

America has also warned foreign governments that that the United States military has the right to retaliate with military force against a cyber-attack.

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