Trump Team Seems to Stay the Course With the Last Administration’s Cyber Efforts

Evan Vucci/AP

Two recent moves suggest the Trump White House isn’t seeking a sea change in international cyber policy.

The Trump administration dropped two further hints Thursday it plans to take the Obama administration’s lead in the global approach to cyberspace.

First, in the morning, the White House released a pre-publication draft of an order extending the underlying basis for two Obama-era executive orders justifying targeted sanctions against foreign hackers who attack U.S. institutions and critical infrastructure, including election systems.

That was the authority former President Barack Obama used to sanction leaders of Russia’s intelligence services for meddling in the 2016 election.

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Then, in the afternoon, the Homeland Security Department’s acting cybersecurity lead, Jeanette Manfra, touted two international cyber rules of the road, developed during the Obama administration. Those “norms” bar nations from digitally attacking each other’s critical infrastructure, such as energy plants and transportation hubs, and from attacking each other’s cyber emergency responders.

“We can see both the global scope of the threat and evidence that cooperation between nations in both the public and private sectors is the most effective way to counter the threat,” Manfra said.

A United Nations advisory group endorsed both of those norms in 2015.

Manfra said she had no update about a long-delayed cybersecurity executive order the Trump administration floated but later pulled early in his administration.

Collectively, the moves suggest continuity with the Obama administration’s globalist approach to cybersecurity—an approach some cyber watchers feared would suffer because of President Donald Trump’s general wariness of broad international agreements.

Trump’s Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert also promoted international cyber norms during an address at the University of Texas at Austin last week and earlier criticized some nations’ moves toward data localization—essentially efforts to cut their regimes and citizens off from the global internet.