Trump to sign order strengthening cybersecurity

FeaturesAssociated Press

President Donald Trump is planning to sign an executive order aimed at improving the government's ability to protect its computer networks and fend off hackers.

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The move puts the head of the Office of Management and Budget in charge of cybersecurity efforts within the executive branch and directs federal agency directors to develop their own plans to modernize their infrastructure.

Such a review has become a familiar move for an incoming administration wanting to put its own stamp on cybersecurity. But this year, the push follows allegations of election-season hacking by the Russian government.

U.S. intelligence officials have told Trump that Moscow tried to influence voters by hacking Democratic emails and trolling social media sites. Trump has sought to downplay the role Russia played in the election.

"The executive order is the first step the president is taking to address new security challenges of the 21st century," White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday.

President Barack Obama directed his own comprehensive 60-day, "clean slate" cyberspace policy review in 2009. That review built on President George W. Bush's aims laid out in 2003, to create a cybersecurity response system, called for establishing a threat and vulnerability reduction program, better cybersecurity training and the securing of the government's systems.

But in other ways, it was another turn at reinventing the wheel, cybersecurity experts say.

The previous administration also conducted a 30-day "cyber sprint," requiring agencies to assess their security after more than 21 million people had their personal information stolen from the Office of Personnel Management in what the U.S. believes was a Chinese espionage operation. The Office of Management and Budget also worked on an analysis of agencies' "high-value assets" in 2015.

Experts say such information will still be valuable.

"They ought to fully leverage all of that information that's already done (to) accelerate their review," said retired Air Force Gen. Greg Touhill, who was picked by Obama to serve as the nation's first federal chief information security officer.

Former U.S. officials and cybersecurity experts say cybersecurity has become more urgent as more people, objects such as cars and homes, and critical infrastructure are connected to the internet. At the same time, it's become easier and cheaper for hackers to attack networks from anywhere in the world.