President Obama Signs Limited 'Secret Directive' on Preventing Cyber Attacks, While Congress Fails to Act on Growing Threat

By Ed Silverstein November 15, 2012

Shortly before this week’s latest defeat for a proposed cyber-security bill in the U.S. Senate, news came that President Barack Obama in October signed a limited “secret directive” to prevent cyber-attacks on computer networks.

The Washington Post said the document signed by the President is “Presidential Policy Directive 20,” and lists standard procedures for government agencies, including the military, to combat cyber threats.


Image via Shutterstock

It will also lead to the Department of Defense coming up with new rules to “guide commanders on when and how the military can go outside government networks to prevent a cyber-attack that could cause significant destruction or casualties,” The Post added.

Obama’s staff is also working on an additional presidential directive on cyber security that will be a public executive order, news reports add.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a group of Senators, mostly Republicans, voted down a cloture vote for a more comprehensive cyber-security law. It was the second time Republicans blocked the bill, with many of them concerned that it would create excessive regulations for U.S. businesses.

The legislative defeats lead many observers to believe that Obama will soon release the public executive order on the issue – which will include some of the topics included in the defeated bill.

The vote on Wednesday likely ended the chance that Congress would approve a bill this year, Harry Reid, (D-Nev.), the Senate’s Majority Leader, said.

“Cyber security is dead for this Congress,” Reid said in a statement on the Senate floor following the bill’s defeat. “Whatever we do on this bill, it’s not enough for the Chamber of Commerce.”

The defeated bill, introduced by Joe Lieberman, (Ind. - CT), and Susan Collins, (R-Maine), called for voluntary cyber-security standards for businesses running such infrastructure as power grids and chemical plants, Bloomberg News said. The bill also called for more business and government to share information.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce continues to be opposed to the bill. Some Republicans have supported a less-restrictive bill on the issue. Verizon, AT&T and some major utilities were among the companies opposed to the Lieberman-Collins bill, Bloomberg reported.

Meanwhile, there are repeated concerns that a major cyber-attack against the United States continues to be an imminent threat from foreign governments, terrorists or hackers. For instance, on Wednesday the National Academy of Sciences issued a report that the U.S. electric power system is vulnerable to acts of terrorism which could cause much more damage than Hurricane Sandy, “blacking out large regions of the country for weeks or months and costing many billions of dollars.”

In October, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a public speech that a large cyber-attack “could be a cyber Pearl Harbor; an attack that would cause physical destruction and the loss of life.”

U.S. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, who heads up the National Security Agency (NSA), said earlier this year at the American Enterprise Institute, "If the critical infrastructure community is being attacked by something, we need them to tell us – at network speed.”

“It doesn't require the government to read their mail, or your mail, to do that,” he added in a statement carried by TechZone360.

The U.S. military set up a Cyber Command in 2010, and its leader, Gen. Alexander, wants specialized officers at Fort Meade to be given “greater latitude to stop or prevent attacks,” The Post said.

Meanwhile, a compromise bill is a long-shot during the current Congress.

But any executive order by the President, no matter how carefully crafted, will not be as comprehensive to what is needed, government officials warn.

“We are still going to need legislation to do the things that we think need to be done,” White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel told Bloomberg News. “An executive order is not an adequate substitute.”




Edited by Brooke Neuman

TechZone360 Contributor

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Related Articles

Compliance: Hope Is Not a Plan

By: Special Guest    8/1/2018

Internal misalignment between compliance and business teams can lead to major problems for organizations seeking to implement new digital communicatio…

Read More

Modern Moms Shaping Influence

By: Maurice Nagle    7/19/2018

Everyone knows Mom knows best. The internet is enabling a new era in sharing, and sparking a more enlightened, communal shopping experience. Mommy blo…

Read More

Why People Don't Update Their Computers

By: Special Guest    7/13/2018

When the WannaCry ransomware attacked companies all over the world in 2017, experts soon realized it was meant to be stopped by regular updating. Even…

Read More

More Intelligence About The New Intelligence

By: Rich Tehrani    7/9/2018

TMC recently announced the launch of three new artificial intelligence events under the banner of The New Intelligence. I recently spoke with TMC's Ex…

Read More

Technology, Innovation, and Compliance: How Businesses Approach the Digital Age

By: Special Guest    6/29/2018

Organizations must align internally to achieve effective innovation. Companies should consider creating cross-functional teams or, at a minimum, incre…

Read More