What's in the White House Cyberspace Policy Review you need to know?

The White House cybersecurity report released last week, "Cyberspace Policy Review – Assuring a Trusted and Resilient Information and Communications Infrastructure," includes a large number

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of significant recommendations that could fundamentally change the approach to security for U.S. business and other organizations.

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Among the recommendations are a federal identity management system based on the idea of drivers' licenses and passports. The report states:

"We cannot improve security without improving authentication … authentication mechanisms also can help ensure that online transactions only involve trustworthy data, hardware, and software for networks and devices … the Federal government … should build ... an identity management vision and strategy for the Nation … The Nation should implement an opt-in array of interoperable identity management systems to build trust for online transactions."

The Cyberspace Policy Review, which is the result of a 60-day "cybersecurity review" that President Barack Obama commissioned from task force leader Melissa Hathaway in February, cites federal authority for such a national cyber-ID system:

"The Federal government, following the guidance of Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12), is seeking to leverage the federal interoperable identity credentialing mechanism across the federal enterprise … and should also consider extending the availability of federal identity management systems to operators of critical infrastructure and to private-sector … providers."

The report makes a series of technical recommendations for the federal government, intended to set standards outside the government, including:

  • Pursuing the Trusted Internet Connection program.
  • Continuing the deployment of intrusion detection systems (IDSes) in federal agencies.
  • Exploring long-term architectures for additional IDSes.
  • Leveraging government investments in cryptologic and information assurance tech and necessary supporting infrastructure.
  • Increasing the amount of security testing.
  • Using systems to automate or centralize network management.

  • Providing more restricted Internet connectivity for some unclassified systems.

On encryption, the Cyberspace Policy Review gave a positive nod without outright recommending mandatory standards. It had this to say:

"Privacy enhancing technologies such as encryption or controlled access authentication could ameliorate some risks in sharing information."

[The report] sets a stake in the ground on the federal government's key role in incenting organizations to implement security standards, taking a
"level the playing field" approach.

The report sets a stake in the ground on the federal government's key role in incenting organizations to implement security standards, taking a "level the playing field" approach and arguing that:

"The private sector often seeks a business case to justify the resource expenditures needed for integrating information and communications system security into resource expenditures … government can assist by considering incentive-based legislative or regulatory tools …"

Among those tools, it sees liability as key:

"Federal government should consider options for incentivizing collective action and enhance competition in the development of cybersecurity solutions. For example, the legal concepts for a "standard of care" to date do not exist for cyberspace. Possible incentives include adjustments to liability considerations (reduced liability in exchange for improved security or increased liability for the consequences of poor security), indemnification, tax incentives, and new regulatory requirements and compliance mechanisms."

These and a number of other recommendations contained in the Cyberspace Policy Review are likely to begin implementation as soon as a new White House cyberpolicy official is appointed, an announcement expected shortly.

Sarah Cortes is a senior technology manager at InmanTechnologyIT. Write to her at sarah_cortes@inmantechnologyIT.com.

This was first published in June 2009

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