Trump Team is Floating Cyber Executive Order to Industry


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Cyber watchers urge Trump to hold officials accountable for cyber lapses, but to be clear what accountability means.

Industry officials are reviewing a long-delayed Trump administration cybersecurity executive order, one official said Monday, a sign the order may be released soon.

President Donald Trump was scheduled to sign the order more than a month ago, but abruptly canceled the signing without explanation.

A revised draft of the order leaked several days later, but the administration has been tight-lipped about how the order has been updated since early February or when it might be released.

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Now, White House officials are sharing an updated draft with industry officials and seeking feedback, said Center for Global Enterprise Chairman Samuel Palmisano, who is scheduled to review the draft Monday afternoon.

Palmisano was speaking during a panel discussion on cybersecurity hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“My sense is it’s moving along,” Palmisano said of the executive order. “Maybe within a week or so we could see something, but I would have said that two to three weeks ago as well. ... It’s pretty far along, obviously, if they’re looking for some kind of feedback.”

Cyber watchers gave generally positive reviews to the executive order draft leaked in February, which described holding federal managers accountable for vulnerabilities in their technology systems and for adopting a series of cybersecurity best practices developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Other portions of the report focused on ensuring cyber protections for critical infrastructure.

Simply holding an agency leader accountable for cybersecurity will do little good if those leaders haven’t been given enough money and flexibility to ensure strong cyber protections, panelists stressed during Monday’s CSIS panel.

The administration must also be realistic about how much security is possible given the power of nation-state-backed hackers targeting the federal government and the government’s long-standing investment in aging, legacy information technology, panelists said.

“The proposition that every department and agency in the U.S. government can provide 21st-century, state-of-the-art cybersecurity is not going to happen,” said Palmisano, who was vice chair of a major cybersecurity review delivered near the close of the Obama administration.

“We’re only fooling ourselves right now if we believe that [the White House Office of Management and Budget], in this climate, that you’re going to take $80 billion of legacy systems … and lift and shift and re-engineer it into a 21st-century solution,” said Karen Evans, the top OMB IT official during the Bush administration and technology and cybersecurity leader of the Trump transition team.

“That’s not going to happen,” she said. “That’s cost prohibitive.”

Evans was also a co-chair of CSIS’ Cyber Policy Task Force, which advocated a government-centric approach to improving federal cyber protections rather than marshaling talent from Silicon Valley.