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Wed May 12, 2021, 06:38 PM

Biden signs executive order designed to strengthen federal digital defenses

Source: Washington Post

President Biden signed an executive order Wednesday aimed at shoring up the federal government’s digital defenses, as his administration grapples with cybersecurity crises, including a ransomware strike on a major fuel pipeline that has caused gas shortages. Less than four months into his tenure, Biden has had to respond to a Russian cyberespionage operation that affected nine federal agencies and about 100 American companies, as well as a Chinese cyberhacking campaign that compromised tens of thousands of small and midsize firms that used Microsoft Exchange email servers.

On Saturday, Colonial Pipeline acknowledged that it had fallen victim to a ransomware attack that led it to shut down its entire pipeline — the biggest known cyberattack on the U.S. energy sector. The attack has led to long lines at the pump in some parts of the southeastern United States.On Wednesday, the company announced it was restarting operations. The executive order does not specifically address critical infrastructure such as oil and gas pipelines. But it directs the Commerce Department to craft cybersecurity standards for companies that sell software services to the federal government — a move that officials say they hope will ripple across the private sector nationally and globally and improve cybersecurity for critical systems, too.

“The Colonial Pipeline incident is a reminder that federal action alone is not enough,” the White House said in a statement. The critical systems that deliver water and power are owned by the private sector, a senior administration official said. “We simply cannot let waiting for the next incident to happen to be the status quo under which we operate,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House.

The order also directs agencies to move toward a digital security approach that stresses authenticating users based on behavior rather than just a password or their location. It would use multiple ways to confirm identity, and detect cyber threats through anomalous behavior rather than depending primarily on firewalls to keep hackers out.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/biden-executive-order-cybersecurity/2021/05/12/9269e932-acd5-11eb-acd3-24b44a57093a_story.html

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