President Obama signed another executive order Tuesday that will increase information sharing between the government and private sector to protect water, gas, electricity and other critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.
“The order will allow companies that oversee infrastructure like dams, electrical grids and financial institutions to join an experimental program that has provided government contractors with real-time reports about cyber threats,” The New York Times reported.
Congress failed to pass cybersecurity legislation last year, so the Obama administration has been briefing members of Congress on the real and imminent threat to national security posed by Internet-based attacks.
Obama said in his State of the Union address Tuesday:
America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber-attacks. We know hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private e-mail. We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, and our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.
That’s why, earlier today, I signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy. Now, Congress must act as well, by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks.
The real problem, cybersecurity experts say, is the equipment. “They say the equipment used by companies overseeing the nation’s critical infrastructure is notoriously outdated and insecure because it was not built with the potential for a serious cyber attack in mind,” The Times said.
And that is where congressional approval is needed: to determine the standards for keeping America’s infrastructure safe. But Senate Republicans last year called the minimum standards “too burdensome” for U.S. businesses and killed the legislation.
Meanwhile, online attacks on critical infrastructure are on the rise, according to a report from the Department of Homeland Security. The report showed how “hackers breached the computer systems of several natural gas pipelines last year and stole data that ‘could facilitate remote unauthorized operations,’” The Times article said.