Obama Administration Lays Out New U.S. Cyberspace Strategy

The Obama administration has unveiled a sweeping strategy for the way that it plans to conduct the country’s business and political dealings online in the coming years, and much of the plan centers on improving the security and reliability of the Internet. The International Strategy for Cyberspace is a policy document and not a technical one, but the plan clearly implies that the U.S. intends to assert and defend its rights online.

Obama cyberspaceThe Obama administration has unveiled a sweeping strategy for the way that it plans to conduct the country’s business and political dealings online in the coming years, and much of the plan centers on improving the security and reliability of the Internet. The International Strategy for Cyberspace is a policy document and not a technical one, but the plan clearly implies that the U.S. intends to assert and defend its rights online.

In a lengthy press briefing on Monday, a slew of Obama administration officials got up to reiterate the need for a secure and reliable Internet and emphasize how important the global network is to the country’s prosperity and security now and in the future.The document hits all of the usual notes about the importance of partnering with private industry and other nations, and also plays up the ways in which diplomacy can be used to help maintain the viability of the Internet as a platform for commerce and learning.

However, the International Strategy for Cyberspace also makes it clear that the Obama administration believes that other actions may be necessary to keep U.S. citizens and networks safe.

“The United States will defend its networks, whether the threat comes from terrorists, cybercriminals, or states and their proxies. Just as importantly, we will seek to encourage good actors and dissuade and deter those who threaten peace and stability through actions in cyberspace,” the strategy says. “Protecting networks of such great value requires robust defensive capabilities. The United States will continue to strengthen our network defenses and our ability to withstand and recover from disruptions and other attacks. For those more sophisticated attacks that do create damage, we will act on well-developed response plans to isolate and mitigate disruption to our machines, limiting effects on our networks, and potential cascade effects beyond them.”

In the press briefing, administration officials hammered home the message that the days when online issues and concerns could be separated from terrestrial ones have passed. Now, all of the myriad technical, political and security concerns must be discussed together, they said.

“We can’t have disparate stovepiped discussions, because as many countries focus on these issues, too often the discussion deals with each challenge separately,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during the briefing.

The publication of the international strategy comes just a few days after the Obama administration sent a comprehensive new proposed cybersecurity bill to Congress. The bill includes a number of components, most notably a bit that would create the first national data-breach notification requirement for businesses.

Officials said that while the new strategy is a U.S. policy document, it should be viewed as a road map for how the government and citizens can work with other nations to help ensure that the Internet is safe and usable for future generations.

“The International Strategy lays out the President’s vision for the future of the Internet, and sets an agenda for partnering with other nations and peoples to achieve that vision. It begins by recognizing the successes networked technologies have brought us, in large part due to the spirit of freedom and innovation that has characterized the Internet from its early days as a research project. While the strategy is realistic about the challenges we face, it nonetheless emphasizes that our policies must continue to be grounded in our core principles of fundamental freedoms, privacy, and the free flow of information,” Howard Schmidt, the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator, said in a blog post about the strategy.

“To achieve our vision, the United States will build an international environment that ensures global networks are open to new innovations, interoperable the world over, secure enough to support people’s work, and reliable enough to earn their trust. To achieve it, we will build and sustain an environment in which norms of responsible behavior guide states’ actions, sustain partnerships, and support the rule of law.”

Many of the officials at the press briefing stressed that the global nature of cybercrime, malware and other threats has made it imperative that every nation with a stake in the game work together to address the problem.

“Cybercrime threatens the security of our citizens and the integrity of our markets. If we’re to meet the goals and the responsibilities that we share, we need a new cutting-edge framework for preventing and combating cybercrime,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.

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