President mulling executive order to fill cybersecurity gap
U.S. President Barack Obama in the oval office
August 9th, 2012
04:49 PM ET

President mulling executive order to fill cybersecurity gap

By Suzanne Kelly

President Barack Obama is considering whether to issue an executive order to fill a gap in the country's cybersecurity defenses after Congress failed to move forward cybersecurity legislation last week.

Homeland Security adviser John Brennan said failure to pass legislation that would grant the government more authority in heading off cyber intrusions and attacks, has left a gap that the executive branch is working to fill on an interagency basis, using the resources of the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency and the FBI.

"Executive Orders are a good vehicle to actually direct the departments and agencies to do some certain things to make sure that the nation is protected," Brennan said during a question and answer session at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. "We can't wait, so we're doing things, DHS in conjunction with NSA, FBI, others are working to make sure that we are able to better safeguard our environment but also be able to respond but also be able to be resilient."

The Senate bill was considered by many to be a very basic effort to provide a structural security framework for business, in particular for companies that control the country's critical infrastructure, things like the electric grid, water filtration facilities and air traffic control systems. A compromise version of the bill made compliance with basic security measures voluntary.

Brennan said a top priority for the administration is making sure that if hackers or "bad guys" as he put it, are able to take down some part of the nation's critical infrastructure that the government would be able to recover quickly.

"Believe me, the critical infrastructure of this country is under threat and the technology - whether it be foreign states or cyberhackers and others - they are developing advance technologies and we have to improve our defenses on this issue," said Brennan.

Government agencies are seeing cyberintrusions focused on gathering information, data, sometimes trade secrets, but he worries about what comes next, particularly when it comes to safeguarding the country's critical infrastructure, he said.

"The next step is again the disruptive, disabling, disruptive types of attacks and so electric grids, water treatment facilities, mass transportation systems, railways and trains," said Brennan.

"If those intruders get into those systems and then can determine how they can in fact interfere in the command and control systems of these systems, they can do things, they can put trains onto the same tracks, they can bring down electric grid."

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  16. RW

    Information separation and separation of duties. Its not rocket science people.

    December 3, 2012 at 4:52 am | Reply
  17. Tamara

    As a math instructor, I often inrtatgee technology and informational literacy within my lessons. Very few public schools are concerned with information literacy. Although we have access to the technology, there is limited access to professional development for us to infuse technology and information literacy throughout our curriculum. I hope more opportunities are available for educators to access professional development in these areas, so we can include them in our content course.

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  18. DaveYoung

    Thugbama mulls over whether to place all Americans under his Yoke of Oppression before the November election.
    He will fail.

    August 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Reply
    • Joe dirt

      You're probably a Chinaman.

      August 14, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Reply
  19. DaveYoung

    Thugbama The Failure

    August 10, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Reply
  20. TheComputerGuy

    This is truely serious. Those of us in information technology careers are well aware of the problem. This problem also includes the lack of education in computer science for the next generation cyber security experts. Many school districts in our nation have cut computer science courses over fine arts programs and sports programs. Why do you think we get our computer experts from other countries? Just look at the stupid comments posted her. A lot on nonsence, evidence that too many have no idea how serious this is.

    August 10, 2012 at 9:07 am | Reply
    • Joe dirt

      There are also propaganda comments.. Chinese.. I'll say it again Chinese.. originating from China.. trying to talk us out of doing things that puts China at a disadvantage.

      August 14, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Reply
    • Joe dirt

      And by the way, to hell with China.

      August 14, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Reply
      • china

        thats nice. by the way you still owe me a few trillion.

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    • Apple

      Thanks for helping speard the word. Events like this can increase awareness of an issue and cause. You have helped promote and increase awareness for this cause which may have gone under the radar of many.Thanks for all you do to promote Online Securtiy.

      September 13, 2012 at 1:01 am | Reply
  21. Jim

    The executive order should be to improve our education system. If we are being attacked its because they are smarter than us. Our schools inmany cases are unruley, out to consider the childs right not the childs education. Schools overseas are tuff , the chinese are brilliant as well as other countries, We are losing ground because we have lost focus on the domestic front.

    August 10, 2012 at 8:53 am | Reply
  22. Killer O'Bama

    I will issue such an order when I feel like it and not before! After all, we Americans started this mess in the first place!

    August 9, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Reply
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