UPI, May 13, 2021 (UPI) — President Joe Biden signed a sweeping executive order to beef up the nation’s cybersecurity on Wednesday following a series of high-profile and damaging attacks targeting U.S. infrastructure.
The White House announced the executive order on the day Colonial Pipeline said it had resumed operations following a ransomware attack that forced it to shutdown for nearly a week, disrupting fuel transpiration.
The Biden administration has also had to deal with two other major attacks, a state-backed Russian operation that affected several government agencies and fortune 500 companies that used SolarWinds products and an infiltration by a Chinese hacker group that affected thousands of computers of smaller companies through the Microsoft Exchange server.
The White House called these campaigns “a sobering reminder” of the vulnerabilities both the U.S. public and private sectors face from nation-state actors and cyber criminals.
“This Executive Order makes a significant contribution toward modernizing cybersecurity defenses by protecting federal networks, improving information-sharing between the U.S. government and the private sector on cyber issues and strengthening the United States’ ability to respond to incidents when they occur, “ the White House said in a statement. “It is the first of many ambitious steps the Administration is taking to modernize national cyber defenses.”
The lengthy order removes contractual barriers that bar companies from sharing breach information while also requiring them to do so when it could impact government networks, pushes the federal government to secure cloud services and creates a zero-trust architecture.
It also creates a standard “playbook” for responding to cyberattacks as the recent attacks have laid bare that the response from federal departments varied widely.
A senior administration official speaking to reporters on a press call said the recent attacks all share commonalities: a laissez-faire attitude toward cybersecurity and poor software security.
“For too long, we failed to take the necessary steps to modernize our cybersecurity defenses because doing so takes time, effort and money. And instead, we’ve accepted that we’ll move from one incident response to the next,” the official said. “And we simply cannot let ‘waiting for the next incident to happen’ be the status quo under which we operate.”
The cost of continuing with this status quo, the official said, “is simply unacceptable.”
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas emphasized in a statement the importance of close collaboration between the public and private sectors in combating this threat to the daily lives of Americans and to national security.
The order, he said, moves his department to “dramatically improve our ability to prevent, detect, assess and remediate cyber incidents,” as well as gives it 120 days to develop the cyberthreat playbook.
His department will also establish the Cyber Safety Review Board of private and public sector experts that will convene following cyber incidents to analyze what occurred and to offer cybersecurity recommendations.
The senior official also explained the executive order establishes baseline security standards for the development of software for the government.
“We use federal buying power to jumpstart the market for secure software by requiring that all software we buy meet these standards in nine months,” the official said. “Today, its hard for someone buying software to know how secure it is, so the executive order requires companies to do vulnerability scans and make those available to customers regularly.”
The official explained that this executive order takes steps to prevent cyber infiltrations from happening and ensures that when they do the United States is prepared to respond.
“This will be the first of many ambitious steps the public and private sector must and will take together to safeguard our economy, security and the services on which the American way of life relies,” the official said.