Thursday, February 16, 2017

Confusing the two Trump cybersecurity executive orders

In Andy Greenberg's Wired article on February 9, 2017, "Trump Cybersecurity Chief Could Be a 'Voice of Reason," he writes:
But when Trump’s draft executive order on cybersecurity emerged last week, it surprised the cybersecurity world by hewing closely to the recommendations of bipartisan experts—including one commission assembled by the Obama administration.
The described timing and the link both refer to the original draft cybersecurity executive order, which does not at all resemble the recommendations of Obama's Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity or the recommendations of the Center for Strategic and International Studies Cyber Policy Task Force, which both included input from large numbers of security experts. Contrary to what Greenberg says, the executive order he refers to was widely criticized on a number of grounds, including that it is incredibly vague and high level, specifies an extremely short time frame for its reviews, and that it seemed to think it was a good idea to collect information about major U.S. vulnerabilities and defenses into one place and put it into the hands of then-National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn. That original version of the executive order resembled the Trump campaign's website policy proposal on cybersecurity.

The positive remarks, instead, were for a revised version of the cybersecurity executive order which was verbally described to reporters on the morning of January 31, the day that the signing of the order was expected to happen at 3 p.m., after Trump met for a listening session with security experts. The signing was cancelled, and the order has not yet been issued, but a draft subsequently got some circulation later in the week and was made public at the Lawfare blog on February 9.

This executive order contains recommendations consistent with both the Cybersecurity Commission report and the CSIS Cyber Policy Task Force report, mandating the use of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework by federal agencies, putting the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in charge of enterprise risk assessment across agencies, promoting IT modernization and the promotion of cloud and shared services infrastructure, and directing DHS and other agency heads to work with private sector critical infrastructure owners on defenses.

One key thing it does not do, which was recommended by both reports, is elevate the White House cybersecurity coordinator role (a role which the Trump administration has not yet filled, which was held by Michael Daniel in the Obama administration) to an Assistant to the President, reflecting the importance of cybersecurity. Greenberg's piece seems to assume that Thomas Bossert is in the lead cybersecurity coordinator role, but his role is Homeland Security Advisor (the role previously held by Lisa Monaco in the Obama administration), with broad responsibility for homeland security and counterterrorism, not cybersecurity-specific.

Despite Greenberg's error confusing the two executive orders being pointed out to him on Twitter on February 9, the article hasn't been corrected as of February 16.