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Obama Brings Tech Firms Into His Cybersecurity Push

San Francisco – President Barack Obama is asking Silicon Valley to join his plan to boost cybersecurity, as he takes new measures to improve sharing of threat information in the absence of legislation.

San Francisco – President Barack Obama is asking Silicon Valley to join his plan to boost cybersecurity, as he takes new measures to improve sharing of threat information in the absence of legislation.

A new executive order — to be signed at a White House cybersecurity summit Friday in California — aims to encourage better and faster sharing of threats between the private sector and government.

The summit comes amid increased concerns over cybersecurity following a major intrusion last year into the network of Sony Pictures, which has been blamed on North Korea, and data breaches exposing the personal data of tens of millions of Americans.

“Rapid information sharing is an essential element of effective cybersecurity, because it enables US companies to work together to respond to threats, rather than operating alone,” a White House statement said.

“This executive order lays out a framework for expanded information sharing designed to help companies work together, and work with the federal government, to quickly identify and protect against cyber threats.”

The new measure goes beyond a similar order signed by Obama last February, by allowing for cooperation between the Department of Homeland Security and private sector entities aimed at sharing data on threats.

It also makes it easier for private sector firms to gain access to classified threat information to step up cyber defenses.

Although the order lacks the liability protection which could be afforded in legislation for information sharing, the White House statement said the measure “paves the way for new legislation” by establishing a framework for private-sector information sharing networks.

The White House in January made a renewed push for a new cybersecurity law, asking the new Congress to revive an initiative stalled over the past few years.

The new proposal would criminalize the sale of stolen financial data, and would require companies to notify consumers about data breaches.

Key tech leaders join

The more than 1,000 people expected to attend the Palo Alto summit will include technology company executives, police, academics, students and privacy advocates, according to White House National Economic Council director Jeffrey Zients.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook was to speak just before Obama. “The summit is really an opportunity to take stock of where we have been and point toward where we need to go,” White House cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniel said Thursday.

Topics targeted at the summit will include sophisticated attacks sponsored by nation-states, and ways to “use all the tools in the US government’s tool box” while working with the private sector to tackle the problem, according to White House officials.

“It is not appropriate for all network security to be carried out by the government; it is not even physically possible,” Daniel said.

“But, that does not mean that companies are going to be left to fend for themselves.”

Some technology companies will use the summit to announce steps being taken to improve online security with techniques such as multi-factor authentication that requires more than a password to access accounts.

Joining the effort will be companies ranging from tech giants such as Intel and Apple, as well as financial firms like US Bank and AIG and retailers including Walgreens and QVC.

Firms will also unveil steps being taken to improve how information about cyber attacks is shared with other companies and the government so defenses can be unified, according to Daniel.

The US has an opportunity to use cybersecurity as a competitive advantage in the global marketplace by “getting it right” so the country is a preferred place for banking, data storage, smartphone technology and more, according to Zients.

Part of the reason the White House is holding the summit in Silicon Valley is to close a rift opened when a massive US online surveillance program was exposed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

But many tech firms and civil liberties activists have said they would back a cybersecurity plan only if accompanied by reforms of NSA surveillance.

Written By

AFP 2023

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