White House Issues Governmentwide Cyber Action Plan

Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan

Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan Susan Walsh/AP

The new guidance aims to protect the most high-value information assets the federal government holds.

The White House on Friday issued a broad new plan designed to better respond to cybersecurity incidents such as those that exposed secrets on millions of citizens as well as government operations.

The new guidance, which aims to protect the most high-value information assets the federal government holds, is the latest step in the months-long fallout from the devastating hack of sensitive federal employee files from the Office of Personnel Management revealed this summer.  

“We must continue to double down on this administration’s broad strategy to enhance federal cybersecurity and fundamentally overhaul information security practices, policies, and governance,” said federal Chief Information Officer Tony Scott in an Office of Management and Budget blog post Friday.

The new plan -- a memorandum to the heads of federal agencies and departments from Scott and OMB Director Shaun Donovan -- builds on a 30-day “cybersecurity sprint” this summer, during which Scott’s office called on agencies to immediately tighten online defenses in the wake of the OPM breach. Agency deputy secretaries will be in charge of implementing the plan, according to the document.

The plan lays out an initial set of deadlines. By the end of the year,

  • OMB will issue new “incident response best practices” to agencies;
  • The Department of Homeland Security will extend the protections under its intrusion-detection system known as EINSTEIN. A new DHS contract will equip all agencies with updated “EINSTEIN 3A” email and network surveillance technology that also blocks certain malicious activities;
  • Agencies will be required to report all cyber positions to OPM and a group of agency CIOs will create a special subcommittee focused on rapid deployment of emerging technology.

During the cyber sprint, agencies were directed to identify and review the security of their high-value assets -- those containing sensitive or critical data that, presumably, would be of high-value to hackers, too.

By Dec. 31, the director of national intelligence will lead a threat assessment of those assets “that are at high-risk of targeting by adversaries,” according to the plan. DHS will lead a separate team -- made up of personnel from the Pentagon, the intelligence community and others -- to “continuously diagnose and mitigate the cybersecurity protections” for the high-value assets.

The DHS team will continue to conduct “proactive assessments on a rolling basis” as officials identify new threats, the plan stated.

Longer-term deadlines include:

  • By Jan. 31, OMB will release a plan for implementing new cybersecurity shared services;
  • By March 31, OMB will release new guidance on safeguarding personally identifiable information;
  • By the end of April, GSA will finalize a contract vehicle for pre-vetted services for incident response services that can quickly be leveraged by agencies in the wake of a breach;
  • By June 30, the National Institute of Standards and Technology will issue new guidance to agencies on recovering from cyber events.

DHS is also expected to expand a suite of tools to help agencies continuously monitor and respond to threats on their networks. Full deployment of “Phase 2” capabilities under the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program -- dealing with access control and authentication -- should be completed by the end of fiscal 2016.

In addition, the action plan itself pushes agencies to implement stronger identity management for users seeking wide access to federal networks. The percentage of federal employees required to use a smart card in addition to a password to log on to computer networks increased from about 42 percent to more than 72 percent during the cyber sprint, OMB said at the time. That’s continued to grow and is now about 80 percent, according to Scott.

Thanks to the cyber sprint and other action taken by the administration, the state of federal cybersecurity “is stronger than ever before,” Scott said in the blog post.

But Scott, who has frequently described the federal government’s cybersecurity challenges as more akin to a marathon than a sprint, also hinted at deep challenges that remain.

“Cyberthreats cannot be eliminated entirely, but they can be managed much more effectively,” he said.

Agencies sometimes neglect to patch security holes identified half a decade ago, and struggle to take inventory of information and devices connected to the Internet, according to numerous Government Accountability Office reports.

“Across the federal government, a broad surface area of legacy systems with thousands of different hardware and software configurations contains vulnerabilities and opportunities for exploitation,” Scott said in the blog post.

The new plan, he added, “helps get our current federal house in order, but it does not re-architect the house.”

Scott and OMB Director Shaun Donovan also issued updated guidance under the annual Federal Information Security Management Act.

This year’s guidance, for the first time, defines a “major” cyberincident and mandates agencies report these incidents to Congress within seven days.

The new cyber action plan comes a week after Scott’s office proposed a broad rewrite of the federal government’s strategy for buying, managing and securing agency IT systems, known as Circular A-130.

Over the summer, the administration also issued updated guidance on how contractors should secure government data.

The White House issued a broad new plan Friday designed to better respond to future cybersecurity incidents that have exposed secrets on millions of citizens as well as government operations.

The new guidance which aims to protect the most high-value information assets the federal government holds is the latest step in the months-long fallout from the devastating hack of sensitive federal employee files from the Office of Personnel Management revealed this summer.  

“We must continue to double down on this administration’s broad strategy to enhance federal cybersecurity and fundamentally overhaul information security practices, policies, and governance,” said Federal Chief Information Officer Tony Scott in an Office of Management and Budget blog post Friday.

The new plan -- a memorandum to the heads of federal agencies and departments from Scott and OMB Director Shaun Donovan -- builds on a 30-day “cybersecurity sprint” this summer, during which Scott’s office called on agencies to immediately tighten online defenses in the wake of the OPM breach. Agency deputy secretaries will be in charge of implementing the plan, according to the document.

The plan lays out an initial set of deadlines. By the end of the year,

  • OMB will issue new “incident response best practices” to agencies;
  • The Department of Homeland Security will extend the protections under its intrusion-detection system known as EINSTEIN;
  • Agencies will be required to report all cyber positions to OPM and a group of agency chief information officers will create a special subcommittee focused on rapid deployment of emerging technology.

During the cyber sprint, agencies were directed to identify and review the security of their high-value assets -- those containing sensitive or critical data that, presumably, would be of high-value to hackers too. By Dec. 31, the director of national intelligence will lead a threat assessment of those assets “that are at high-risk of targeting by adversaries,” according to the plan. DHS will lead a separate team -- made up of personnel from the Pentagon, the intelligence community and others -- to “continuously diagnose and mitigate the cybersecurity protections” for the high-value assets.

The DHS team will continue to conduct “proactive assessments on a rolling basis” as officials identify new threats, the plan stated.

Longer-term deadlines include:

  • By Jan. 31, OMB will release a plan for implementing new cybersecurity shared services;
  • By March 31, OMB will release new guidance on safeguarding personally identifiable information;
  • By the end of April, GSA will finalize a contract vehicle for pre-vetted services for incident response services that can quickly be leveraged by agencies in the wake of a breach;
  • By June 30, the National Institute of Standards and Technology will issue new guidance to agencies on recovering from cyber events.

DHS is also expected to expand a suite of tools to help agencies continuously monitor and respond to threats on their networks. Full deployment of “Phase 2” capabilities under the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program -- dealing with access control and authentication -- should be completed by the end of fiscal 2016.

In addition, the action plan itself pushes agencies to implement stronger identity management for users seeking broad access to federal networks. The percentage of federal employees required to use a smart card in addition to a password to log on to computer networks increased from about 42 percent to more than 72 percent during the cyber sprint, OMB said at the time. That’s continued to grow and is now about 80 percent, according to Scott.

Thanks to the cyber sprint and other action taken by the administration, the state of federal cybersecurity “is stronger than ever before,” Scott said in the blog post.

But Scott, who has frequently described the federal government’s cybersecurity challenges as more akin to a marathon than a sprint, also hinted at deep challenges that remain.

“Cyber threats cannot be eliminated entirely, but they can be managed much more effectively,” Scott said.

Agencies sometimes neglect to patch security holes identified half a decade ago, and struggle to take inventory of information and devices connected to the Internet, according to numerous Government Accountability Office reports.

“Across the federal government, a broad surface area of legacy systems with thousands of different hardware and software configurations contains vulnerabilities and opportunities for exploitation,” Scott said in the blog post.

The new plan, he added, “helps get our current federal house in order, but it does not re-architect the house.”

Scott and OMB Director Shaun Donovan also issued updated guidance under the annual Federal Information Security Management Act.

This year’s guidance, for the first time, defines a “major” cyberincident and mandates agencies report these incidents to Congress within seven days.

The new cyber action plan comes a week after Scott’s office proposed a broad rewrite of the federal government’s strategy for buying, managing and securing agency IT systems, known as Circular A-130.

Over the summer, the administration also issued updated guidance on how contractors should secure government data.

NEXT STORY: Infographic: What's the Real Cost of Cyber Crime?

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.