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Trump Issues Cybersecurity Executive Order

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

If last week's global ransomware attack last week is any indication, then President Trump's executive order on cybersecurity is just about on time.

Fortunately, the ransomware attack that hit hundreds of thousands of computers from Taiwan to the United Kingdom missed most of the United States. And while a president's order may not stop all cybersecurity breaches, it is a good sign that the president, whose main form of communication seems to be Twitter, is trying to do his part for the security of that and other online platforms. Trump's Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert said the order is designed to fulfill the president's promise to "keep America safe, including cyberspace."


The executive order focuses on protecting federal networks, updating outdated systems, and collaborating with all agencies "so that we view our federal I.T. as one enterprise network," Bossert said. The order directs government agencies to assess their systems and report to Homeland Security, the Secretary of Defense, and Director of National Intelligence.

The first priority is the nation's electrical grid. The order calls for an assessment of the potential for a "prolonged power outage associated with a significant cyber incident" and whether the United States is ready to manage the consequences.

While the order focuses on government systems, 90 percent of the nation's power infrastructure is privately held, meaning there is plenty more work to be done. The Energy Department says its top priority is to make the nation's electric power grid and oil and natural gas infrastructure resilient to cyber threats.

"Our ongoing collaboration with vendors, utility owners, and operators of the electricity and oil and natural gas sectors strengthens the cybersecurity of critical energy infrastructure against current and future threats," the agency website says.

The Grid

Recent high-profile hacks in the United States have found their way into personal email accounts, like the 1.5 billion Yahoo accounts that were reportedly accessed last year. The attacks on Democratic political organizations during the election also grabbed headlines.

But the government has also suffered serious breaches, including the cyber attack on the Office of Personnel Management in 2014. According to reports, 34% of federal agencies experienced data breach last year, and 65% had a breach at some point in the past.

"Almost all agencies - a whopping 96% - reported that they considered themselves "vulnerable" to cyber attack, with 48% saying they were "very" or "extremely" vulnerable," USA Today reported.

Law firms, including large ones, have also had serious cyber breaches. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that cybercriminals hacked several large firms to take information in an insider trader scheme.

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