President Obama Pushes for Stronger National Cybersecurity

February 4, 2015

“Cybersecurity” is quickly becoming the buzzword of our generation. It appears in national headlines, legislative schedules, and now President Obama’s 2015 agenda. In response to recent cyber attacks on multiple U.S. companies and the federal government itself, President Obama has made cybersecurity a top priority for 2015. On Monday, February 2, President Obama set into motion his plans with a $14 billion budget proposal for increased cybersecurity. Although critical, the White House’s budget proposal is only one in a series of President Obama’s steps for increased national cybersecurity.
President Obama originally previewed his cybersecurity goals almost a year ago in an official statement stating,

“America’s economic prosperity, national security, and our individual liberties depend on our commitment to securing cyberspace and maintaining an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable Internet.”

In January 2015, President Obama again put cybersecurity at the forefront of his agenda, addressing the topic in his State of the Union address, and proposing several legislative proposals on cybersecurity. One of his main proposals would, according to The Hill, “provide legal liability protection for companies willing to share cyber data with the [National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center].” The NCCIC is an arm of the Department of Homeland Security that was created several years ago for the purpose of “shar[ing] information among the public and private sectors to provide greater understanding of cybersecurity.” The Center, however, has faced setbacks because of slow exchanges between the private sector and the government, as a result of industry’s fears that such data exchanges may make them vulnerable to shareholder lawsuits. The President’s proposal, if adopted, would offer protections against such suits, which in turn would encourage increased data sharing by the private sector, a key step in the President’s cyber protection plans.
The President’s recently announced budget proposal builds upon these legislative proposals by requesting $14 billion for funding nationwide protection against cyberattacks. The proposal also seeks $105 million for 25 federal agencies to enhance their digital service teams, an allocation that if passed would mark the first time agencies, besides the FBI, receive substantial federal funds for cybersecurity purposes. In addition to his budget proposal, an executive action from President Obama is also expected any day now. Sources speculate that an action could likely be announced as soon as February 13 at the administration’s cybersecurity summit held at Stanford University. The action would likely include a strategy for facilitating a faster exchange between the private sector and the NCCIC, which would hopefully entice Congress to adopt the President’s January legislative proposals. However, some say that Obama’s budget proposals are not enough. In an article for U.S. News, Tom Risen argues that in addition to the President’s budget proposals and other cybersecurity initiatives, companies also need to strengthen their own cybersecurity efforts if cyber attackers are to be fully thwarted.
While, it is too early to tell whether or not President Obama’s cybersecurity plans will ultimately be successful, it is clear that if we wish to prevent increasingly common cyber attacks on both the private and public sectors, strengthening cybersecurity is essential.