Why Obama’s Cybersecurity Order Is Important

No one knows whether or when America will suffer a major cyber attack. But the era of cyber politics has begun.

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A little-noticed element of Barack Obama’s speech last night was his announcement of an executive order to improve the nation’s cyber security. It’s not as emotionally potent as a call for gun control or a pledge to combat global warming. But it’s an important political and policy development.

The politics are interesting because Obama is using his executive powers, as he may on climate change, to take action after being stymied by Congressional Republicans. Last year, the White House pressed for a cyber bill in Congress, a relatively mild measure that set voluntary standards for businesses–particularly those that control critical infrastructure like power plants–to cooperate with the government in sharing information about malware and hacker threats. But Republicans, backed by the Chamber of Commerce, fretted about big government regulation and offered a far more limited alternative (even as they warned of impending “cyber catastrophe“). So, Obama will do what he can without them. “Since the prospects for a bill remain uncertain,” says a senior administration official, “and given the level of risk, the administration is in a position where it has to take some action. The president is determined to protect our nation against cyber threats.”

The policy is interesting, less for its esoteric details about how Washington will share share of classified threat information with private companies (more on that here), but for what it signals about the rapid growth of cyber as a government priority. As hacking into government and private systems becomes increasingly common, Washington is arming up for computer combat. The Pentagon’s Cyber Command–yes, there is a four-star general in charge of keyboard combat–has announced plans to quintuple in size. In the final months of his tenure, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta took to warning about the possibility of a “cyber-Pearl Harbor.” The Pentagon may even start awarding medals for valiant military efforts in cyberspace.

A group of Senate Republicans, including John McCain, were quick to complain about Obama’s unilateral move. And House Republicans, with some Democratic support, are planning to revive their own measure. No one knows whether or when America will suffer a major cyber attack. But the era of cyber politics has begun.

7 comments
CerebralSmartie
CerebralSmartie

Michael Crowley,  I especially liked : "The Pentagon may even start awarding medals for valiant military efforts in cyberspace." It is truly valiant when an ace cyber security pro can prevent disaster, and those individuals ought to be celebrated. (although wouldn't we want to protect the privacy the person, since they are targeted by our enemies ans such a huge asset for us?)

It is appropriate that "The Pentagon’s Cyber Command–yes, there is a four-star general in charge of keyboard combat–has announced plans to quintuple in size." Anyone who opposes seems ill informed or  naive. We  absolutely must consider that it is perceived by our enemies that the US may have engaged in cyber warfare. This perception alone  makes us very vulnerable and in need of a strong defense, whether or not we have engaged in cyber warfare. What comes to mind is a 60 Minutes TV Show about Iran and Stuxnet. Google it, if you do not remember or did not see the show. Watch this : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEjUlbmD9kQ

Many have written about that 60 Minutes TV show and here is just one of the good articles: Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/200871/the-stuxnet-virus-60-minutes-to-dive-right-in/#PkwojLoUXY6KUO3v.99

" ..Stuxnet, the virus that could break an empire.  It was two years ago that a team in Belarus was first able to detect the Stuxnet Virus.  Its legacy will be felt for generations to come.  The Virus is said to have possibly set Iran’s nuclear program up to 2 years.

It is pure fascination that causes the legacy of the Stuxnet virus to live on.  It is by far the most powerful form of cyberwarfare we have seen yet, even though no one has actually taken any credit for it (most people think it was the United States, Israel or both).

The American media has only had a small glimpse into the power of this awesome computer virus and the American people remain largely in the dark about its effect.  Sunday night, CBS’s “60 Minutes” will attempt to explain the Stuxnet virus and explain cyberwarfare to all....It is widely assumed that the worm made its way into Iran through covert agents who infected the system with flash drives. The worm was carefully programmed to target a specific installation and to remain inert until it found its target. When it did, it seized control of some 1,000 Iranian nuclear centrifuges. While displaying seemingly normal operating conditions to workers there, the centrifuges were forced to spin out of control and effectively destroy themselves."

John McCain opposes this cyber protection? How absurd!


PaulDirks
PaulDirks

If you don't want your systems to be vulnerable, keep them the eff off the internet. There - problem solved.


gysgt213
gysgt213

Important thing to know about this issue is that its not about defending or protecting the United States from a cyber-attack.  We are already and have been attacked many times over.   The fear of a cyber-Pearl Harbor is a red herring..

No.

This is about attacking back. Which we have also done but are gearing up to increase.


http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/technolog/us-hackers-iran-responsible-cyberattacks-1C6423908

http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/technolog/3-more-major-us-banks-report-possible-cyber-attacks-6126050

http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/technolog/us-was-chief-target-cyber-attacks-mcafee-121800


bobell
bobell

Wouldn't it be swell if the Congress, with the participation and approval of Republicans, came up with a strong cyber-security bill that pre-empted the presidential actions by including them -- and more -- in its provisions? We even have some Republicans saying that a cyber-security bill is needed.  So why am I expecting them to come up with something that is weaker than the executive order while at the same time barring the president from doing anything beyond the scope of that weakened legislation? And how can the dems resist it or Obama veto it -- the Repubs will accuse them of being soft of cyber-warfare.

Sound familiar? It should.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@bobell 

It's almost as if playing politics is more important to GOP then legislating.

bobell
bobell

@MrObvious Oh, surely not. Everyone knows they're doing it all out of love of country. (For example what other than love of country would lead them to force invasive ultrasounds on women seeking abortions?)  I'll bet they're going to send the nation a big valentine today -- perhaps another Marco Rubio speech, this time with a large pitcher of water on the lectern.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@bobell 


Of course their Valentines message to all of us is as always - Kiss my A**