Tag Archives: White House

ShutterstockWhite House officials are revealing details of President Barack Obama’s initial plans for protecting the computer networks of crucial American industries from cyberattacks.

Their description of Obama’s executive order was planned for Wednesday, a day after the president signed it. The announcement was also coming hours after the president urged Congress in his annual State of the Union address to pass legislation taking even tougher steps.

In his speech, Obama said America’s enemies are “seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions and our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.”

He added, “Now, Congress must act as well by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks.”

On Tuesday, senior administration officials said Obama’s order starts the development of voluntary standards to protect the computer systems that run critical sectors of the economy like the banking, power and transportation industries. It also directs U.S. defense and intelligence agencies to share classified threat data with those companies.

Obama’s executive order has been months in the making and is the product of often-difficult negotiations with private sector companies that oppose any increased government regulation.

While largely symbolic, the plan leaves several practical questions unanswered:

  • Should a business be required to tell the government if it’s been hacked and U.S. interests are at stake?
  • Can a person sue her bank or water treatment facility if those companies don’t take reasonable steps to protect her?
  • If a private company’s systems are breached, should the government swoop in to stop the attacks — and pick up the tab?

Under the president’s new order, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has a year to finalize a package of voluntary standards and procedures that will help companies address their cybersecurity risks. The package must include flexible, performance-based and cost-effective steps that critical infrastructure companies can take to identify the risks to their networks and systems and ways they can manage those risks.

There also must be incentives the government can use to encourage companies to meet the standards, and the Pentagon will have four months to recommend whether cybersecurity standards should be considered when the department makes contracting decisions.

The order also calls for agencies to review their existing regulations to determine whether the rules adequately address cybersecurity risks.

Congress has been struggling for more than three years to reach a consensus on cybersecurity legislation. Given that failure and the escalating risks to critical systems, Obama turned to the order as a stopgap measure with the hope that lawmakers will be able to pass a bill this year. Leaders of the House Intelligence Committee said they plan to reintroduce their bill that encourages the government to share classified threat information, empowers companies to also share data and provides privacy and liability protections.

The process has exposed how difficult and complex the issue is, turning the long-awaited executive order into a bureaucratic scramble aimed at showing countries like China and Iran that the U.S. takes seriously the protection of business secrets. It has been an intensive effort by White House staff and industry lobbyists wary of government intervention but fearful about their bottom line.

The cyberthreat to the U.S. has been heavily debated since the 1990s, when much of American commerce shifted online and critical systems began to rely increasingly on networked computers.

White House Reveals Obama’s Cybersecurity Plan | DFI News.

Back in 2011, the United States government opened a site that allows people to create petitions to present to the White House. The site was created as a way to help citizens and government communicate with each other and the White House promised to respond to any petition that receives at least 25,000 signatures. In November, someone started a petition requesting that the United States begin construction of a Death Star by 2016 and it received over 34,000 signatures.

By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense.

Today the White House responded and showed that they have a sense of humor. The title of the response is “This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For,” and it outlines three reasons why the project won’t begin.

  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We’re working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

The article isn’t all tongue-in-cheek though. It explains that while we don’t have a Death Star, we do have a space station orbiting the planet, have spacecraft that are leaving the Solar System as well as exploring the Sun and Mars, and are building a replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope. Finally, it encourages people to pursue careers in science-related fields.

White House addresses petition on building a Death Star.

ShutterstockWhen a former senior White House official describes a nationwide surveillance effort as “breathtaking,” you know civil liberties activists are preparing for a fight.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the little-known National Counterterrorism Center, based in an unmarked building in McLean, Va., has been granted sweeping new authority to store and monitor massive datasets about innocent Americans.

After internal wrangling over privacy and civil liberties issues, the Justice Department reportedly signed off on controversial new guidelines earlier this year. The guidelines allow the NCTC, for the first time, to keep data about innocent US citizens for up to five years, using “predictive pattern-matching,” to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior. The data the counterterrorism center has access to, according to theJournal, includes “entire government databases — flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others.”

Massive New Surveillance Program Uncovered | DFI News.