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Trump signs executive order aimed at shoring up cybersecurity

12 May 2017, 12:14 | Ignacio Ramos

Trump signs order outlining plan to protect US networks from cyberattacks

Trump speaks at the White House in Washington

President Donald Trump today signed a long-awaited executive order aimed at beefing up cybersecurity at federal government agencies - with a shift of computer capabilities to the cloud as a key part of the strategy. The order, signed on Thursday, is created to "centralize risk" and move the government's agencies toward shared IT services, White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said in a press briefing "We've got to move to the cloud, and try to protect ourselves, instead of fracturing our security posture", he said.

As it is now, Bossert said, "we spend a lot of time and inordinate money protecting antiquated and outdated systems".

Trump's order follows months of hacking accusations: the US intelligence community accused Russian Federation of orchestrating a campaign of cyberattacks; and Democratic political organizations and high profile officials in Hillary Clinton's campaign suffered embarrassing revelations on WikiLeaks.

The Internet is part of the underpinning of the American economy, and the Executive Order affirms that it is the policy of the United States to promote an open, interoperable, reliable and secure Internet. A draft of the original proposed order on cybersecurity began circulating in January, but the administration held it to seek more input from agency heads and private sector experts. And the Russians are not the only people who operate in a negative way on the Internet.

Leo Taddeo, chief information security officer of Cyxtera Technologies, told IBTimes UK that the order "implements important first steps" towards addressing the country's cybersecurity challenges.

While the order contains several expected developments, like risk management and critical infrastructure policies, it also incorporates a number of initiatives to help facilitate agency adoption of its cyber goals. In March, White House adviser Tom Bossert said that the administration plans to develop metrics to track federal agencies' implementation of the NIST cyber framework. The order follows what USA intelligence agencies say was a wide-ranging influence operation meant to help Trump win the White House and defeat his challenger, Hillary Clinton-an assessment only grudgingly accepted by Trump since he became president.

Finally, the order addresses the need for a cybersecurity-capable workforce. "We have practiced one thing and preached another". On a question, whether the move was motivated by the Russian hack, he said it was a US-motivated issue.

But Brian Finch, a cybersecurity attorney at the law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in Washington, speculated that releasing a final version of an executive order involving so many federal agencies would have been premature in the midst of the Trump administration's transition into the White House.

With any luck, this executive order will at least lay out a responsibility and schedule for drawing up a cybersecurity plan, in the strongest government tradition: issue an order to specify who should make the plan, which will then outline what should be done and who should do it.

"This order is more of a plan for a plan", Michael Daniel, former White House cybersecurity coordinator, said in an email. The Secretary of Energy and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, with State, local, tribal, and territorial governments, and with others as appropriate, shall jointly assess the potential scope and duration of a prolonged power outage associated with a significant cyber incident.

"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", Drew Mitnick, policy counsel at Access Now said in a statement.

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