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Follow Up: National Cybersecurity Executive Order

A month ago, NTT released an Intelligence Report from the Global Threat Intelligence Center (GTIC). Highlighted in that report was the recently signed Executive Order (EO) focused on combatting “persistent and increasingly sophisticated malicious cyber campaigns resulting in attacks on the nation’s infrastructure.” Since the signing of the EO, there has been initiative and progress from the White House, federal officials and supporting agencies showing signs of promise for remediating cybersecurity vulnerabilities which have posed more serious and lasting threats.

Let’s look at the timeline between the signed EO and resulting initiatives for improving the infrastructure of national cybersecurity to date.

12 May 2021   President Biden signs Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity.
27 May 2021   Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announces Security Directive to enable better identification and protection of cyber threats to critical companies in the pipeline sector.
20 July 2021  TSA announces second Security Directive for owners and operators of pipelines that transport hazardous liquids and natural gas to implement cybersecurity protection, contingency and recovery plans.
28 July 2021   National Security Memorandum issued for owners and operators of critical infrastructure to develop better cybersecurity standards.
25 August 2021  White House Summit with President Biden, private sector leaders and education leaders to discuss EO strategy and action plans.

 

The EO was prompted primarily by a more recent string of cyberattacks, including incidents with the Colonial Pipeline, SolarWinds and Microsoft Exchange servers. And there have still been major incidents that have occurred since the signing of the EO, like the T-Mobile Ransomware Hack in early August that stole the data of a reported 100 million users and resulted in the ransom of 30 million users’ information for 6 bitcoin (approximately $270,000).

Pressured organizations and agencies are feeling the weight of these incidents in their resources and know that it will take commitment and follow-through over strategy to the win the war on cyberattacks. According to GovTech, “new mandates can be frustrating for government organizations when they arrive without funding to effectively implement them.” As per the directives of the new EO, encouraging federal organizations to capitalize specific areas of cyber infrastructure they have not previously invested in should be a top priority, to focus on system availability and integrity in existing cyber infrastructures and adopting multifactor identification and encryption.

Section 3 of the Executive Order, “Modernizing Federal Government Cybersecurity,” states:

“The Federal Government must adopt security best practices; advance toward Zero Trust Architecture; accelerate movement to secure cloud services, including Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Platform as a Service (PaaS); centralize and streamline access to cybersecurity data to drive analytics for identifying and managing cybersecurity risks; and invest in both technology and personnel to match these modernization goals.”

On August 25th President Biden met with leaders from top technology and financial companies like Amazon, IBM, Google and Apple, along with heads from the private sector, education and national security. The president encouraged action from companies who “have the power, capacity and responsibility to raise the bar on cybersecurity.” According to a recent Twitter post by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, his company “will invest $20 billion to advance our security solutions over the next 5 years, $150 million to help US government agencies upgrade protections, and expand our cybersecurity training partnerships,” in response to the president’s call to action.

Companies like Amazon, Google, IBM want to increase the number of educated professionals by pledging money and cybersecurity training. The president backed up that sentiment, adding that there are 500,000 vacant positions in the nation’s cybersecurity workforce and that number needs to be reduced. The White House has also posted a new website Stop Ransomware to provide an online government resource for training and education in modern cybersecurity practices and awareness, along with an online reporting center for incidents.

The shift in rhetoric from reactive to proactive shows the most promise. The necessary time, effort and resources are now being committed by the ones who are in a position to make a significant impact. Optimistically, a larger workforce of cybersecurity professionals who are well trained, with the financial and educational backing of the White House, federal government and private companies can strengthen the shield against cyberthreats and attacks on critical infrastructure and make this massive joint effort worth the investment for a more secure future.

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