Obama campaign plank hints at cyber executive order

The DNC platform says President Obama will continue taking ‘executive action’ to bolster computer security in the wake of Congressional inaction.

The Democratic party platform released on Tuesday sends the strongest signal yet that President Obama intends to issue an executive order demanding companies secure their computers against cyberattacks.

“Going forward, the president will continue to take executive action to strengthen and update our cyber defenses,” the plank states.

The previous White House cyber czar Howard Schmidt and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Intelligence Committee chairwoman, have urged such action, following their failure to pass permanent reforms in Congress.

Industry pushback, privacy worries and party politics stymied attempts to pass a law that would regulate the way critical industries, such as the transportation sector, safeguard their computers.

John Brennan, the president’s adviser on homeland security and counterterrorism, first raised the prospect of using existing powers to protect critical infrastructure in August.

The Republican agenda backed by presidential hopeful Mitt Romney scorns this approach for the risk it carries in hampering better industry solutions.

“The costly and heavy-handed regulatory approach by the current administration will increase the size and cost of the federal bureaucracy and harm innovation in cybersecurity,” the GOP platform states.

Both parties favor sharing intelligence on threats gathered by security agencies and businesses – but are conflicted on what kinds of liability and privacy protections should govern those information exchanges.

The Republican agenda states, “The government collects valuable information about potential threats that can and should be shared with private entities without compromising national security. We believe that companies should be free from legal and regulatory barriers that prevent or deter them from voluntarily sharing cyberthreat information with their government partners.”

While today’s Democratic proposal stands by the belief that a cyber mandate would be best at building security and privacy into public-private partnerships: “President Obama has supported comprehensive cybersecurity legislation that would help business and government protect against risks of cyber attacks while also safeguarding the privacy rights of our citizens.