US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order on Thursday that aims to improve and bolster the cyber defenses of the government’s federal networks and critical infrastructure in the country.
In what can be seen as President Trump’s first notable action to address the state of cybersecurity in the country, the order will improve the network security of government agencies which have frequently been plundered by foreign state-sponsored hackers over the years.
The most notable of those attacks came in 2015, when the Office of Personnel Management revealed a data breach where the personal details of a staggering 20 million American citizens were stolen, with fingers pointed toward Chinese state-sponsored hackers.
White House homeland security advisor Tom Bossert stated:
We’ve seen increasing attacks from allies and adversaries, primarily nation-states, and sitting by and doing nothing is no longer an option.
The presidential order will also set to task the priority of protecting critical installations such as the energy grid and the financial sector from sophisticated attacks. Recent developments in cyber espionage activities have led to repeated warnings from researchers that hackers could plausibly shut down parts of the power grid from offshore locations.
Some observers aren’t impressed by the executive order. Access Now, a digital rights advocacy group pointed to nothing more than “incremental changes” to existing policies.
“The measures in the executive order will serve as incremental changes to existing policies, while the Trump administration has otherwise either ignored or undermined pressing digital security threats internet users face,” wrote Drew Mitnick, policy counsel at Access Now.
Notably, Mitnick added:
The action does not touch several critical areas, like the insecurity of “Internet of Things’ devices, data breaches, or vulnerability disclosure.
“That’s something we can no longer abide. We need to establish the rules of the road for proper behavior on the internet and we need to deter those who don’t want to abide by those rules,” Bossert stated, speaking to reporters.
“It wasn’t a Russia-motivated issue. It was a United States of America-motivated issue.”
The complete Presidential Executive Order, titled ‘Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrascturere can be found here.
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