Washington – President Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday aimed at tightening the federal government’s cybersecurity defenses as his administration tackles a number of overlapping hackers, including a ransomware attack on a major fuel artery that has caused shortages of gas in at least seven states across the country. South East.
The executive order, months in progress, fails to address critical infrastructure, including pipelines, but instructs the Department of Commerce to authorize new standards for software vendors supplying the federal government. The cybersecurity classification system, compared to the health grades of New York City restaurants, would require multi-factor user verification in new technology and added encryption.
Within four months, the Biden White House has faced a Russian cyberespionage operation involving nine federal agencies and about 100 private companies, as well as a Microsoft Exchange hack linked to China, which has hit tens of thousands of companies across the country. This weekend, Colonial Pipeline revealed that a ransomware attack forced the company to close the 5,500 miles of its pipeline, responsible for supplying 45% of the East Coast’s fuel supply.
The new White House executive order drives the federal government toward migration to safer cloud systems and establishes a “Cybersecurity Security Review Board” with members from both the public and private sectors.
“This executive order protects federal networks. Following the response to the SolarWinds incident, we faced the harsh truth that some of the most basic cybersecurity prevention and response measures were not systematically implemented in all federal agencies, ”said a senior White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity according to basic White House rules. “Therefore, we identified a small set of high-impact cyber defenses that, when implemented, hinder the engagement and operation of a hacked network for an adversary.”
Chris Wysopal, chief technology officer and co-founder of cybersecurity company Veracode, described the executive order as “surprisingly expansive” and congratulated the addition of a supervisory board designed after the National Transportation Security Board, which will help the private and public sector to learn from cybersecurity incidents while maintaining the privacy of cyber victims.
“It’s aggressive. It’s serious. And I think it’s been a long time coming,” Wysopal added.
The order received a lukewarm response from Capitol Hill leaders, who have struggled to propose legislation that will put dollars behind the federal government’s promise to tighten critical infrastructure.
“Cybersecurity is a matter of national security and we congratulate the Administration for prioritizing it in this way,” said in a joint statement representatives Bennie Thompson, chair of the National Security Committee and Yvette Clarke, chair of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity. “If nothing else, the cyber incidents that have taken place over the last six months have shown that bold action is needed to defend our networks today and in the future. The executive order signed today by the president is just that.”
“This executive order is a good first step, but executive orders can only get this far,” Sen. Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. “Congress will need to strengthen itself and do more to address our cyber vulnerabilities, and I look forward to working with the administration and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reduce these gaps.”
“This is one of the most detailed and deadline-based EOs I’ve seen of any administration. After a seismic attack, like SolarWinds, it’s amazing to see,” said Amit Yoran, founding director of US-CERT. the Department of Homeland Security told CBS News in a statement. “Next year, all software vendors for the federal government should have an established software development lifecycle. This speaks directly to the supply chain security issues that SolarWinds drew attention to: a link from “Broken chain can bring down the whole fence. While these practices will not prevent all supply chain breaches, it is an important step forward.”
“We just can’t let the wait for the next incident be the status quo in which we operate,” a senior White House official added.
The presidential order closely followed a Colonial Pipeline announcement, acknowledging that it resumed operations at 5 p.m., Wednesday. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm broke the first news via Twitter after a phone call with Colonial CEO Tim Felt.
Olivia Gazis contributed to this report.