United States: President Trump Signs Long-Awaited Cybersecurity Executive Order

Last Updated: May 18 2017
Article by Norma M. Krayem

Norma Krayem is a senior policy advisor and Marco Crocetti is an attorney in Holland & Knight's Washington, D.C., office

On May 11, 2017, President Trump signed the long anticipated Cybersecurity Executive Order (EO), entitled "Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure." Early in his Administration, the President included cybersecurity as one of his top ten priorities for his Administration. The EO represents President Trump's first major cyber policy, which aims to strengthen the security of the federal government's information technology infrastructure, increase cybersecurity protection measures for critical infrastructure, and train a new generation of cybersecurity workforce. The Executive Order is broken down into three sections (1) Cybersecurity of Federal Networks; (2) Cybersecurity of Critical Infrastructure; and (3) Cybersecurity for the Nation.

Notably, Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert during the press briefing announcing the signing of the EO stated: "I think the trend is going in the wrong direction in cyberspace, and it's time to stop that trend and reverse it on behalf of the American people." 

The following is a quick overview of the EO. Implementation by the White House - with all of the agencies involved as they work directly with companies - will be a lengthy, but important process to engage in. We will continue to provide updates on this, as well as sector specific impacts, as the process moves forward along.

Section 1. Cybersecurity of Federal Networks

Section 1 reinforces the need to "build and maintain a modern, secure, and more resilient executive branch IT architecture."  Specifically the Order requires each Executive Branch agency to use the NIST Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, and successor documents, to manage the agency's own cybersecurity risk.  Previously the focus for use of the NIST Framework has been on the private sector.

The order also tasks the newly created Director of the American Technology Council to work with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the General Services Administration (GSA) to create a report to the President within 60 days with recommendations on plan to modernize Federal IT.

Section 2. Cybersecurity of Critical Infrastructure

Section 2 represents one of the most awaited areas of the new Cyber EO, focusing on the cyber risks that Critical Infrastructure faces and continues the policies established in the Obama Administration Cybersecurity Executive Order 13636 from February 12, 2013 (Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity.) Section 2 similarly requires sweeping reviews of private sector cybersecurity initiatives in order to identify areas of improvement needed to support critical infrastructure's ability to manage and sustain themselves against cyber-attacks as well as calling on the Executive Branch to provide "Support to Critical Infrastructure at Greatest Risk."

The EO directs DHS, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), the Attorney General, DNI, the Director of the FBI and the heads of appropriate sector-specific agencies to work with the private sector to address cyber risks to the companies and actions the agencies should take to support the companies risk management efforts.

Supporting Transparency in the Marketplace:  The EO cites to potential issues with the cybersecurity efforts for publicly traded companies, calling on a report to be submitted to the President within 90 days, led by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and DOC to "examine the sufficiency of exiting Federal policies and practices to promote appropriate market transparency of cybersecurity risk management practices by critical infrastructure entities." 

Resilience Against Botnets and Other Automated, Distributed Threats:  The botnets and other similar threats brings shared risk across all critical infrastructure ecosystems. DOC and DHS are directed to "lead an open and transparent process to identify and promote action by appropriate stakeholders to better collaborate and protect against botnets. " The report must be publicly available in 240 days, with a final report within one year.

Assessment of Electricity Disruption Incident Response Capabilities:  The EO specifically cites to risks in the electricity sector and directs the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) and DHS,  in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, along with state and local governments, is look at "the potential scope and duration of a prolonged power outage associated with a significant cyber incident as defined in Presidential Policy Directive 41 against the electricity sector; the readiness of the United States to manage the consequences of such an incident; and any gaps or shortcomings in assets or capabilities to mitigate the consequences of such an incident."

Department of Defense Warfighting Capabilities and Industrial Base:  Interestingly, the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) was also cited separately in the EO as well based on "cybersecurity risks facing the defense industrial base, its supply chain, and U.S. military platforms, systems, networks and capabilities." DOD, DHS, and the FBI, in coordination with DNI, have 90 days to provide a report to the President on both the risks and recommendations for addressing them.

Section 3. Cybersecurity for the Nation

Section 3 outlines  a number of other key items that the Administration is concerned about including the need to: 1) Create an Improved Cyber Deterrence Policy focusing on "strategic options for deterring adversaries and better protecting the American people from cyber threats." 2) Focus on International Cooperation and Priorities:  focusing on maintaining a "globally secure and resilient internet" working with our allies around the world and will include a focus on "attribution, cyber threat information sharing, response, capacity building, and cooperation." 3) Cyber Workforce Development Priorities: focusing on the need to find, educate and create the next generation of cyber workforce to better meet the needs of the public and private sectors.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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