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Cyber Deterrence Should Be Key Focus For Trump Administration, Task Force Says

Time for US to strengthen consequences for cyberattacks, CSIS says in recommendations to incoming administration.

A Washington think tank, in an apparent rebuke of the Obama administrtion, issued a set of recommendations for the Trump Administration Thursday, advising against overeliance on the private sector to fix national sector cybersecurity challenges and against assumptions the government will work as a single entity to execute on security initiatives. 

The set of recommendations comes from the Center for Strategic and International Studies and highlights some things the new government should avoid if it wants to make more progress on cybersecurity than the previous administration. 

The recommendations are contained in a document titled “From Awareness to Action: A Cybersecurity Agenda for the 45th President” that Senator Sheldon Whitehouse [D-RI] and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul [R-TX] released publicly at a press conference Thursday.

The recent election showed the need for the President-elect and his national security team to address the scope and the severity of the cyber threat the country faces, Whitehouse said in releasing the report. The CSIS recommendations offer ways the government and private sector can collaborate on bolstering national cybersecurity, he said.

The CSIS’ latest guidance for the Trump Administration builds on the advice it offered to the Obama transition team in 2009. One big emphasis is on measures the government should take to create meaningful consequences for foreign actors and criminals that attack US interests in cyberspace.

Since the last set of recommendations to the Obama Administration, the US has experienced an “immense” number of incidents involving cyber espionage, cybercrime and, more recently, attempts at political coercion via cyber attacks, the report said. The US will need to make greater use of threats to impose sanctions and pursue criminal charges against foreign threat actors that indulge in such activity, the CSIS said.

The use of such threats has resulted in China ratcheting back its commercial espionage activity in recent times and there’s no reason why they won’t work against other adversaries as well.

The report also recommends measures that would raise costs for attackers via proportionate responses. Recommended measures include actions that would make it harder for attackers to monetize stolen data and create uncertainty about the value of stolen credentials. In addition to calls for more punitive legal measures, the CSIS recommendations suggest the need for retaliatory measure for paralyzing the network infrastructures used by adversaries to launch cyber attacks.

Other recommendations include creating better ways to disrupt botnets, passing measures that make it easier for organizations to share incident data freely without fear of legal repercussions, and establishing standards and principals around IoT security.

Some of the language in the CSIS recommendations suggests disappointment over the pace of change on the cybersecurity front in recent years.

The Obama White House’s inherent belief that private industry would “spontaneously generate” solutions that would mitigate the need for government action was a mistake, CSIS said. Apparent concerns that the government would be seen as overbearing resulted in “hesitation, even timidity” in executive actions on cybersecurity.

A tendency by the government to bring in high-profile business executives to government and expecting them to run government like a corporate entity also contributed to a lack of progress, the CSIS said.

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