Donald Trump as US President

Trump signs executive order to bolster US cyber defences

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On Thursday, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at improving the cyber defences of government agencies and national infrastructure. This extends the cyber security policies of the Obama administration.

This marks President Trump’s first major action to tackle cyber attacks, which he has described as a top priority. During a debate between Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Trump said that: “The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough […] we have so many things that we have to do better […] and certainly cyber is one of them”.

President Trump came close to signing a cyber security measure in January, only days into his presidency. However, it was delayed to allow for more input from agencies and expert consultants.

The ‘Presidential Executive Order on Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructures’ primarily seeks to improve the network security agencies. Over the past few years, hackers have already stolen millions of personal records and other data.

In June 2015, the US Office of Personnel Management announced that it had been the target of data breach, affecting 20 million personnel records.

Now, heads of federal agencies must use a framework developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to assess and manage cyber risk, and develop strategies for implementing it. Former US President Barack Obama had encouraged the private sector to adopt the framework, but had not required public agencies to do so.

Government agencies will now “practise what they preach”, said White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert in a press briefing.

“A lot of progress was made in the last administration, but not nearly enough.”

According to Trump’s team, the executive order also aims to enhance protection of infrastructure, such as the energy grid and financial sector. Recent developments have led to warnings that hackers could threaten national security at a distance by, for instance, shutting down parts of the power grid or targeting the economy.

The order also calls for an examination of the impact of moving agencies towards cloud computing services, urges cooperation with private companies to develop better cyber defences, and lays out goals to collaborate with US allies to form a strong cyber deterrence strategy.

Michael Daniel, White House cyber security coordinator under President Barack Obama, praised the order, but said that it was mostly “a plan for a plan”.

Before his inauguration in January, Trump stated that cyber security would be a priority during his time in office. He has raised eyebrows, however, by using a personal Twitter account vulnerable to hacking, and due to his dismissal of the conclusion of US intelligence agencies that Moscow was behind cyber attacks on the Democratic Party during the 2016 US presidential election.

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