Very Initial Thoughts on the White House Cybersecurity Order

By William C. Snyder

Actual Presidential Executive Order on Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure

Initial thoughts, observations, and questions on the White House Cybersecurity Order …

  • Once again, the NIST Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity is key.
  • Each agency has 90 days to provide a risk management report to the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
  • DHS, OMB, Commerce, General Services, and White House staff then have 60 days to submit to the president a plan to protect the “executive branch enterprise.” Is that coordination or an ability to designate who is in charge?
  • For any national security system, the SecDEF and Director of National Intelligence (DNI) replace DHS and OMB.
  • An even larger group has 180 days to provide a report on protecting critical infrastructure. That group includes the secretary of DHS, secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the DNI, the Director of the FBI, “the heads of appropriate sector-specific agencies,” … “and all other appropriate agency heads.”
  • The order calls for “market transparency of cybersecurity risk management practices by critical infrastructure entities,” presumably so people can vote with their feet. But, much critical infrastructure is either held/run by regulated monopolies or in the public sector. So, consumer choice is minimal and demand will not be elastic based upon transparency of poor cybersecurity practices. This directive may simply amount to public shaming as the enforcement mechanism.
  • A different large group of public agencies is to promote resilience against botnets and the like.
  • The departments of Energy and Homeland Security and DNI office have 90 days to report on securing the electric grid.
  • For the nation in general, “it is the policy of the executive branch to promote an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure internet that fosters efficiency, innovation, communication, and economic prosperity, while respecting privacy and guarding against disruption, fraud, and theft.” Note that one side of the balance is only “disruption, fraud, and theft.” There is no mention there of preventing terrorist communications or contraband such as child pornography.
  • A report on deterring adversaries is required within 90 days.
  • A section entitled “International Cooperation” also calls for reports, but it gives no indication of whether the Administration still supports “multi-stakeholderism” or will shift to “multi-literalism.”
  • For better or worse, the order does not address investigative abilities and criminal enforcement.
  • The order takes a defense posture and does not promote—yet—offensive cybersecurity.

http://blog.cybersecuritylaw.us/2017/05/11/very-initial-thoughts-on-todays-white-house-cybersecurity-order/