Obama may issue order on defense against cyber attacks on Wednesday : sources

Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:25pm EST
 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama plans to release a long-awaited executive order aimed at improving the nation's defenses against cyber attacks as early as Wednesday, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The order, drawn up after Congress failed to pass cyber defense legislation last year, is meant to improve the protection of critical industries and infrastructure from cyber intrusions.

Concerns about cyber attacks, which have hit a succession of major U.S. companies and government agencies in recent months, also could be raised by Obama in his annual State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday evening.

One of the White House's major goals is to improve information-sharing about attacks among private companies, and between companies and the government.

"Our biggest issue right now is getting the private sector to a comfort level so they can report anomalies, malware, incidents within their network" without undue fear of being "outed" as victims, said FBI Executive Assistant Director Richard McFeely, head of the Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch.

The order is expected to give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the lead role in protecting critical U.S. infrastructure, according to a government official who had seen a final draft of the order's executive summary.

DHS will be tasked with setting up a system for sharing cyber threats with private industry and be responsible for protecting critical infrastructure, the official said. Most of the critical U.S. infrastructure is run by private industry.

"We know the executive order isn't going to go as far as legislation could or will go, but it's a good start," the official said.

Some Republicans had wanted the Department of Defense to play the lead role instead of DHS.   Continued...

 
U.S. President Barack Obama walks through the colonnade of the White House in Washington February 12, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas