The White House, looking to strengthen the nation's cybersecurity posture in the face of rising threats and Congressional inaction, issued a long-awaited executive order Tuesday night that could improve public-private information sharing and spark the adoption of best cybersecurity practices by the nation's critical infrastructure companies.

The executive order and a related presidential policy directive, which establish a broad public-private cyberthreat information sharing regime and voluntary cybersecurity standards for the private sector, has been in the works for months. The documents were released on the heels of reports that China continues to kick up its cyberespionage, and a day before members of Congress plan to reintroduce failed legislation that aims to accomplish some of the same goals as the executive order.

"America must face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks," President Obama said in the State of the Union address Tuesday night while announcing that he had signed the executive order. "We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy."

The executive order directs a number of improvements in information sharing. Within 120 days, the Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice will issue "instructions" to ensure the "timely" production and dissemination of unclassified cyberthreat reports that can be broadly shared.

Expedited security clearances for critical infrastructure employees are on the table as part of the new order. The executive order would also expand the Enhanced Cybersecurity Services program. Formerly known as the Defense Industrial Base pilot, this initiative shares classified and other cybersecurity threat information by and with defense contractors and others with security clearances. That program will now be open to a wider array of critical infrastructure companies.

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