January 16, 2015

Obama unveils next steps in cybersecurity plan

Tech. Sgt. Jake Richmond
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON – Continuing an effort to help defend the nation’s computer-connected systems, President Barack Obama announced today additional steps that call for more information sharing, modernized law enforcement and updated security data breach reporting.

“Cyber threats pose an enormous challenge for our country,” the president said. “As long as I’m president, protecting America’s digital infrastructure is going to remain a top national security priority.”

Speaking at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Virginia, Obama said since much of the nation’s critical infrastructure — financial systems, power grids, pipelines, health care systems — runs on networks connected to the Internet, cybersecurity is a matter of public safety and of public health. He noted that most of that infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector, but government and non-government entities are “still not always working as closely together” as they should.

“We’re proposing new cybersecurity legislation to promote the greater information sharing we need between the government and private sector,” Obama explained. “It includes liability protections for companies that share information on cyber threats. It includes potential safeguards to ensure that government protects privacy and civil liberties, even as we’re doing our job of safeguarding America’s critical information networks.”

The president also announced the “Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection,” which is scheduled for Feb. 13 at Stanford University in California. He said the event is intended to help shape public- and private-sector efforts to protect American people and companies from growing threats to consumers and commercial networks.

“Neither government nor the private sector can defend the nation alone,” Obama said. “It’s going to have to be a shared mission — government and industry working hand-in-hand as partners. And that’s why I’ve said that protecting our digital infrastructure is a national security priority and a national economic priority.”

Even before the internationally reported hack of Sony Pictures, the issue of cybersecurity had gained prominence within the Defense Department. In November of last year, Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the commander of U.S. Cyber Command, the director of the National Security Agency, and chief of the Central Security Service, told the Reagan National Defense Forum audience that network defense isn’t an either-or proposition that can be neatly divided into public- and private-sector responsibilities.

“This is the ultimate team sport,” he said. “There is no single sector, there is no single element of this population, there is no single element within the government that has the total answer. It will take all of us working together to make this work.”

Rogers has used the term “cyber blur” to describe the convoluted way cyber attacks are both perpetrated by enemies and defended by American entities. Last October, he called for leaders in all kinds of institutions to drive the cultural changes needed to allow new cybersecurity partnerships to thrive.

The president said the federal government needs to continue collaborating on this issue, too. He said he will be working with Congress to ensure partisan disagreements don’t keep the government from fulfilling its most basic responsibilities.

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