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Since most of the country’s software and hardware is owned and operated by private companies, the EO looks to address gaps between government and private networks.
- After the SolarWinds, Microsoft Exchange and Colonial Pipeline cyberattacks that have taken place over the past year, President Joe Biden has introduced an executive order (EO) to “improve the nation’s cybersecurity and protect federal government networks.”
What led to the executive order?
- Some of the attacks this year have been as simple as sending “phishing” links to government employee emails.
- “Phishing” is the name for what happens when someone clicks a link sent to their email address, which results in a virus being downloaded onto their computer and sensitive information being exposed.
- Rick Jordan, a former White House consultant and the chief executive officer of IT company ReachOut, told TMS that part of the problem was a lack of cooperation between agencies and a reluctance to share information.
- “When I was consulting for the White House, the private sector was actually trying to partner with the Federal Government,” Jordan told TMS. “The NSA didn’t want to share information with the CIA and the CIA didn’t want to share information with the Pentagon because they felt like they were doing their own things.”
- Another problem is how interconnected some government agencies are.
- Joel Burleson-Davis, the chief technology officer of SecureLink, a cybersecurity company, told TMS that because much of the government’s infrastructure is all interconnected, there can be a domino effect if a data breach does take place.
- He believes that this domino effect would open “up additional attack vectors and leave other organizations and citizens at risk” and that “Private sector companies must do everything they can to protect their critical infrastructure, environments, and networks.”
What does the executive order address?
- Since most of the country’s software and hardware is owned and operated by private companies, the EO looks to address gaps between government and private networks.
- This includes steps like requiring technology providers to share information about breaches that impact the government, since tech providers are generally hesitant or contractually unable to share information about a breach.
- It also includes establishing a “zero-trust security model,” which essentially means that no one is trusted. For example, this forces every user to verify their login information when trying to access government resources even if they are within the network perimeter.
- Other things in the EO include a playbook on how to respond to cyberattacks and steps to improve cyberattack detection and investigation systems.
What are the reactions to Biden’s EO?
- Jordan believes that “this executive order seems to be a little too late … that is [already] what the private sectors do. Active Cybersecurity isn’t always about preventing a hack – because that’s inevitable. Active Cybersecurity is about having a plan for when a hack does occur.”
- However, Burleson-Davis takes a sunnier view. “Looking ahead, we hope this executive order is a catalyst for change – [resulting in] the security, management and accountability that’s needed to adequately secure third-party remote access and protect critical infrastructure and citizens.”
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