The White House released this fact sheet on how the Biden-Harris Administration is strengthening cybersecurity – particularly important with the rise of cyberwarfare mounted by Russia, China, North Korea and others.
The Biden-Harris Administration has brought a relentless focus to improving the United States’ cyber defenses, building a comprehensive approach to “lock our digital doors” and take aggressive action to strengthen and safeguard our nation’s cybersecurity, including:
Improving the cybersecurity of our critical infrastructure. Much of our Nation’s critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector. The Administration has worked closely with key sectors – including transportation, banking, water, and healthcare – to help stakeholders understand cyber threats to critical systems and adopt minimum cybersecurity standards. This includes the introduction of multiple performance-based directives by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to increase cybersecurity resilience for the pipeline and rail sectors, as well as a measure on cyber requirements for the aviation sector. Through the President’s National Security Memorandum 8 on Improving Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure Control Systems, we are issuing cybersecurity performance goals that will provide a baseline to drive investment toward the most important security outcomes. We will continue to work with critical infrastructure owners and operators, sector by sector, to accelerate rapid cybersecurity and resilience improvements and proactive measures.
Ensuring new infrastructure is smart and secure. President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is an investment to modernize and strengthen our Nation’s infrastructure. The Administration is ensuring that these projects, such as expanding the Nation’s network of electric-vehicle charging stations, are built to endure, meeting modern standards of safety and security, which includes cyber protections. Investments in digital security through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) will also bring high-speed internet to underserved parts of the country, bridging the digital divide as well. Also the BIL, the Administration launched a first-of-its-kind cybersecurity grant program specifically for state, local, and territorial (SLT) governments across the country. The State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program will provide $1 billion in funding to SLT partners over four years, with $185 million available for fiscal year 2022, to support SLT efforts to address cyber risk to their information systems and critical infrastructure.
Strengthening the Federal Government’s cybersecurity requirements, and raising the bar through the purchasing power of government. Through the President’s Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity, issued in May 2021, President Biden raised the bar for all Federal Government systems by requiring impactful cybersecurity steps, such as multifactor authentication. The Administration also issued a strategy for Federal zero trust architecture implementation, as well as budget guidance to ensure that Federal agencies align resources to our cybersecurity goals. We are also harnessing the purchasing power of the Federal Government to improve the cybersecurity of products for the first time, by requiring security features in all software purchased by the Federal Government, which improves security for all Americans.
Countering ransomware attacks to protect Americans online. In 2021, the Administration established the International Counter-Ransomware Initiative (CRI), bringing together partners from around the globe to address the scourge of ransomware. The White House will host international partners October 31-November 1 to accelerate and broaden this joint work. This group has raised collective resilience, engaged the private sector, and disrupted criminal actors and their infrastructure. The United States has made it harder for criminals to move illicit money, sanction a series of cryptocurrency mixers used regularly by ransomware actors to collect and “clean” their illicit earnings. A number of cyber criminals have also been successfully extradited to the United States to face justice for these crimes.
Working with allies and partners to deliver a more secure cyberspace. In addition to launching the International Counter Ransomware Initiative, the Administration has established cyber dialogues with a breadth of allies and partners to build collective cybersecurity, formulate coordinated response, and develop cyber deterrence. We are taking this work to our most vital alliances – for example, establishing a new virtual rapid response mechanism at NATO to ensure Allies can effectively and efficiently offer each other support in response to cyber incidents.
Imposing costs on and strengthening our security against malicious actors. The Biden-Harris Administration has not hesitated to respond forcefully to malicious cyber actors when their actions threaten American or our partner’s interests. In April of 2021, we sanctioned Russian cyber actors affiliated with the Russian intelligence services in response to the SolarWinds attack. We worked with allies and partners to attribute a destructive hack of the Viasat system at the beginning of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Implementing internationally accepted cyber norms. The Administration is committed to ensuring internationally negotiated norms are implemented to establish cyber “rules of the road.” More recently, we worked with international partners to call out Iran’s counter-normative attack on Albanian government systems and impose costs on Tehran for this act.
Developing a new label to help Americans know their devices are secure. This month, we will bring together companies, associations and government partners to discuss the development of a label for Internet of Things (IoT) devices so that Americans can easily recognize which devices meet the highest cybersecurity standards to protect against hacking and other cyber vulnerabilities. By developing and rolling out a common label for products that meet by U.S. Government standards and are tested by vetted and approved entities, we will help American consumers easily identify secure tech to bring into their homes. We are starting with some of the most common, and often most at-risk, technologies — routers and home cameras — to deliver the most impact, most quickly.
Building the Nation’s cyber workforce and strengthening cyber education. The White House hosted a National Cyber Workforce and Education Summit, bringing together leaders from government and from across the cyber community. At the Summit, the Administration announced a 120-Day Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Sprint to help provide skills-based pathways into cyber jobs. With momentum from the Summit, the Administration continues to work with partners throughout society on building our Nation’s cyber workforce, improving skills-based pathways to good-paying cyber jobs, educating Americans so that they have the skills to thrive in our increasingly digital society, and improving diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) in the cyber field.
Protecting the future – from online commerce to national secrets —by developing quantum-resistant encryption. We all rely on encryption to help protect our data from compromise or theft by malicious actors. Advancements in quantum computing threaten that encryption, so this summer the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced four new encryption algorithms that will become part of NIST’s post-quantum cryptographic standard, expected to be finalized in about two years. These algorithms are the first group of encryption tools that are designed to withstand the assault of a future quantum computer, which could potentially crack the security used to protect privacy in the digital systems we rely on every day, such as online banking and email software.
Developing our technological edge through the National Quantum Initiative and issuance of National Security Memorandum-10 (NSM-10) on Promoting United States Leadership in Quantum Computing While Mitigating Risks to Vulnerable Cryptographic Systems. This initiative has more than doubled the United States Government’s research and development (R&D) investment in quantum technology, creating new research centers and workforce development programs across the country. NSM-10 prioritizes U.S. leadership in quantum technologies by advancing R&D efforts, forging critical partnerships, expanding the workforce, and investing in critical infrastructure; will move the Nation to quantum-resistant cryptography; and protects our investments, companies, and intellectual property as this technology develops so that the United States and our allies can benefit from this new field’s advances without being harmed by those who would use it against us.
The Biden Administration, from its first days, has been warning – and acting – on cybersecurity, when previous administrations just sat back as ransomware and cyberattacks became epidemic and more lethal – threatening water supplies, power grids, even nuclear plants. But the issue of cybersecurity has become elevated and unavoidable because of Russia’s reaction to sanctions for its invasion and war crimes against Ukraine, warranting President Biden and the White House to issue new warnings and mount pre-emptive defenses. (New York Governor Kathy Hochul already has set up infrastructure to protect New York and cooperate with federal government.)
“This is a critical moment to accelerate our work to improve domestic cybersecurity and bolster our national resilience,” President Biden declared. “ I have previously warned about the potential that Russia could conduct malicious cyber activity against the United States, including as a response to the unprecedented economic costs we’ve imposed on Russia alongside our allies and partners. It’s part of Russia’s playbook. Today, my Administration is reiterating those warnings based on evolving intelligence that the Russian Government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks.
“From day one, my Administration has worked to strengthen our national cyber defenses, mandating extensive cybersecurity measures for the Federal Government and those critical infrastructure sectors where we have authority to do so, and creating innovative public-private partnerships and initiatives to enhance cybersecurity across all our critical infrastructure. Congress has partnered with us on these efforts — we appreciate that Members of Congress worked across the aisle to require companies to report cyber incidents to the United States Government.
“My Administration will continue to use every tool to deter, disrupt, and if necessary, respond to cyberattacks against critical infrastructure. But the Federal Government can’t defend against this threat alone. Most of America’s critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector and critical infrastructure owners and operators must accelerate efforts to lock their digital doors. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has been actively working with organizations across critical infrastructure to rapidly share information and mitigation guidance to help protect their systems and networks
“If you have not already done so, I urge our private sector partners to harden your cyber defenses immediately by implementing the best practices we have developed together over the last year. You have the power, the capacity, and the responsibility to strengthen the cybersecurity and resilience of the critical services and technologies on which Americans rely. We need everyone to do their part to meet one of the defining threats of our time — your vigilance and urgency today can prevent or mitigate attacks tomorrow.”
FACT SHEET: Act Now to Protect Against Potential Cyberattacks
The Biden-Harris Administration has warned repeatedly about the potential for Russia to engage in malicious cyber activity against the United States in response to the unprecedented economic sanctions we have imposed. There is now evolving intelligence that Russia may be exploring options for potential cyberattacks.
The Administration has prioritized strengthening cybersecurity defenses to prepare our Nation for threats since day one. President Biden’s Executive Order is modernizing the Federal Government defenses and improving the security of widely-used technology. The President has launched public-private action plans to shore up the cybersecurity of the electricity, pipeline, and water sectors and has directed Departments and Agencies to use all existing government authorities to mandate new cybersecurity and network defense measures. Internationally, the Administration brought together more than 30 allies and partners to cooperate to detect and disrupt ransomware threats, rallied G7 countries to hold accountable nations who harbor ransomware criminals, and taken steps with partners and allies to publicly attribute malicious activity.
We accelerated our work in November of last year as Russian President Vladimir Putin escalated his aggression ahead of his further invasion of Ukraine with extensive briefings and advisories to U.S. businesses regarding potential threats and cybersecurity protections. The U.S. Government will continue our efforts to provide resources and tools to the private sector, including via CISA’s Shields-Up campaign and we will do everything in our power to defend the Nation and respond to cyberattacks. But the reality is that much of the Nation’s critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector and the private sector must act to protect the critical services on which all Americans rely.
We urge companies to execute the following steps with urgency:
Mandate the use of multi-factor authentication on your systems to make it harder for attackers to get onto your system;
Deploy modern security tools on your computers and devices to continuously look for and mitigate threats;
Check with your cybersecurity professionals to make sure that your systems are patched and protected against all known vulnerabilities, and change passwords across your networks so that previously stolen credentials are useless to malicious actors;
Back up your data and ensure you have offline backups beyond the reach of malicious actors;
Run exercises and drill your emergency plans so that you are prepared to respond quickly to minimize the impact of any attack;
Encrypt your data so it cannot be used if it is stolen;
Educate your employees to common tactics that attackers will use over email or through websites, and encourage them to report if their computers or phones have shown unusual behavior, such as unusual crashes or operating very slowly; and
Engage proactively with your local FBI field office or CISA Regional Office to establish relationships in advance of any cyber incidents. Please encourage your IT and Security leadership to visit the websites of CISA and the FBI where they will find technical information and other useful resources.
We also must focus on bolstering America’s cybersecurity over the long term. We encourage technology and software companies to:
Build security into your products from the ground up — “bake it in, don’t bolt it on” — to protect both your intellectual property and your customers’ privacy.
Develop software only on a system that is highly secure and accessible only to those actually working on a particular project. This will make it much harder for an intruder to jump from system to system and compromise a product or steal your intellectual property.
Use modern tools to check for known and potential vulnerabilities. Developers can fix most software vulnerabilities — if they know about them. There are automated tools that can review code and find most coding errors before software ships, and before a malicious actor takes advantage of them.
Software developers are responsible for all code used in their products, including open source code. Most software is built using many different components and libraries, much of which is open source. Make sure developers know the provenance (i.e., origin) of components they are using and have a “software bill of materials” in case one of those components is later found to have a vulnerability so you can rapidly correct it.
Implement the security practices mandated in the President’s Executive Order, Improving our Nation’s Cybersecurity. Pursuant to that EO, all software the U.S. government purchases is now required to meet security standards in how it is built and deployed. We encourage you to follow those practices more broadly.
The New York JSOC Will Serve as a First-of-its-Kind Hub for Data Sharing and Cyber Coordination Across New York State, New York City, the Five Major Upstate Cities, Local and Regional Governments, Critical Infrastructure and Federal Partners
Announcement Builds on Governor Hochul’s Unprecedented $61.9 Million Investment in the State’s Cybersecurity Infrastructure as Part of FY23 Budget
Governor Proposes Historic New $30 Million Program for Localities to Help Bolster Cyber Defenses Statewide
As reports have come in about cyberattacks to cripple Ukraine, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul announced the creation of a Joint Security Operations Center in Brooklyn that will serve as the nerve center for joint local, state and federal cyber efforts, including data collection, response efforts and information sharing. A partnership launched with New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Rochester Mayor Malik Evans, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, and cyber leaders across the state, the JSOC is the nation’s first-of-its-kind cyber command center that will provide a statewide view of the cyber-threat landscape and improve coordination on threat intelligence and incident response.
“There is a new type of emerging risk that threatens our daily lives, and just as we improved our physical security infrastructure in the aftermath of 9/11, we must now transform how we approach cybersecurity with that same rigor and seriousness,” Governor Hochul said. “I’m proud to announce this dynamic and innovative partnership to establish the Joint Security Operations Center in collaboration with New York City, our upstate cities, and government and business leaders across the state. Cybersecurity has been a priority for my administration since Day 1, and this command center will strengthen our ability to protect New York’s institutions, infrastructure, our citizens and public safety.”
This innovative collaboration has been months in the making and is the result of Governor Hochul and her team’s early vision and commitment to enhancing the State’s cybersecurity posture. No other state has brought together cybersecurity teams in a shared command space at this scale including federal, state, city, and county governments, critical businesses and utilities, and state entities like Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Office of Information Technology Services, New York State Police, MTA, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New York Power Authority, among others.
New York’s leadership in finance, energy, transportation, healthcare, and other critical fields makes the State an attractive target for cyberattacks that can disrupt operations, including critical infrastructure and services to citizens. While government entities across the State have historically taken an independent approach to cyber defense and protecting the safety of their technology assets, acting alone is no longer optimal. As the frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks have grown, so too has the need for a “whole of government” approach.
The JSOC, headquartered in Brooklyn and staffed by both physical and virtual participants from across the state, will improve defenses by allowing cyber teams to have a centralized viewpoint of threat data. This will yield better collaboration on threat intelligence, reduction in response time, and quicker remediation in the event of a major cyber incident. It will help participating entities respond to potential issues and elevate systemic trends that may have otherwise gone undetected. This approach leverages all the cyber defense assets at the state, city, local and authority-level under one umbrella.
New York State will collaborate with city and regional leaders on cyber trainings and exercises as the JSOC becomes operational over the coming months. The Governor and her team will continue ongoing conversations with the White House and federal partners to ensure coordination.
This builds on Governor Hochul’s historic proposal in this year’s budget for investment in New York State’s cyber protections, which includes $61.9 million for cybersecurity, doubling the previous investment. These investments will fund critical protections, including the expansion of the state’s cyber Red Team program to provide additional penetration testing, an expanded phishing exercise program, vulnerability scanning and additional cyber incident response services. These investments help ensure that if one part of the network is attacked, the State can isolate and protect the rest of the system.
As part of this proposal, the Governor is also proposing a $30 million “shared services” program to help local governments and other regional partners acquire and deploy high quality cybersecurity services to bolster their cyber defenses. The interconnected nature of the state’s networks and IT programs means that attacks can quickly spread across the state. Many government entities often do not have the funding or resources necessary to protect their systems, some which provide critical services like healthcare, law enforcement, emergency management, water treatment, and unemployment insurance, to name a few.
In remarks announcing the new cybersecurity effort, Governor Hochul said, “Given the increasingly volatile geopolitical circumstances with Russia and Ukraine. And we just heard from President Biden moments ago on the advancing troops from Russia, we can no longer act independently. And that has been the case where the state of New York has its plan. City of New York has a plan. Our mayors, our local governments throughout the state of New York. And that is not sustainable in light of the threats that we’re seeing. And we can’t expect cities and counties to go it alone. They don’t have the resources, they don’t have the technological know-how and we’re rethinking our entire approach to cybersecurity really based on the model that was put together after 9/11, when we had a fight and talk about how we can bring people together for our physical security. And that was the genesis of the joint terrorism task force…
We realized that we’re only as strong as our weakest link and the synergy between even our local governments, our cities, and our counties, they’re connected to our state operations. So an attack on them could lead to a larger attack and disruption of service from the state as well. So again, breaking down the silos, the data sharing that has not gone on and bringing it together under one place, and we can strengthen our defenses exponentially.
“And we all know that cyber criminals are relentless. They are motivated, whether they’re state actors, whether they’re rogue individuals, they’re trying to disrupt our operations. Their intent is truly malicious, and that’s why we want to take serious steps here today.
“They’re trying to disrupt our systems and sometimes even extort us for money. And we’ve seen that with hospitals and schools and universities in our own state. And in fact that right now, even costs us $5 to $10 billion a year annually. And just in the last year, 2020 to 21, we’ve had actually 85 serious attacks. And this is even before we’re dealing with the geopolitical situation that I referenced earlier.
“So we know cyber-attacks will continue to happen. And in the long term, this joint security operation, which we call JSOC, you always have to have an acronym if you’re talking about anything in law enforcement, JSOC, this’ll be the tip of the spear for our cybersecurity operations in the state.
“So we know cyber-attacks will continue to happen. And in the long term, this joint security operation, which we call JSOC, you always have to have an acronym if you’re talking about anything in law enforcement, JSOC, this’ll be the tip of the spear for our cybersecurity operations in the state.
“And here we are at 11 MetroTech. And again, this will allow us to have a statewide view and operation sharing. They’ll be doing tabletop exercises. They’ll be working closely together. And I have to tell you, this is absolutely unprecedented. I anticipate that this will be a model for other states. Other areas should be dealing with the same sense of urgency that we [bring] to this. But we know New York state, New York City, we are always going to be in the line of sight for the terrorists and those who want to disrupt our way of life. And knowing that we are the epicenter of financial institutions, and our operations are large infrastructure, and our transportation systems, the MTA, the Port Authority. So that is why we were working so closely with them. And I want to thank Mayor Adams and Chief Technology Officer, Matt Fraser for their partnership.
“We just had a tour of the facility. It is state-of-the-art. This, again, is an incredible model of what collaboration and partner looks like as well. As I mentioned, Albany Mayor Sheehan and, Mayor Spano, who’ve traveled here together today. So this is what collaboration looks like. Physically here, but also we have to put money behind this. And I realized as Governor, and I started asking questions about what we’ve done, where our investments have been, they have been lacking. And I’m proud that my administration is proposing a historic $62 million investment in cybersecurity. More than double what has been spent in previous years and making sure that we have the resource.”
Local governments will get $30 million to buy, at a subsidized price, the technological know-how they need to defend themselves.
Hochul said the state would also be increasing the number of cybersecurity professionals in the state’s workforce, with a plan to hire 70 immediately. “We’re going to be aggressive about identifying cybersecurity individuals who are early in their careers through our Excelsior Fellows program. Also mid-year technologists who have specialties in this, offering them 18 months deployments to become embedded with these operations right here, an incredible experience for them and we’ll take from their experience as well.”
SUNY and CUNY systems are also primed to be training the next generation of professionals. The College Of Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security at the University of Albany is the first of its kind in the nation. “We need to replicate this. So we have cybersecurity degrees all over the State of New York. These are our ways that we’re going to be attracting more people getting more talent here and using, the very best and the brightest that we can to address this threat.”
Hochul added, “This is also an individual challenge. And I’m afraid that many of members of the public become desensitized when they say, well, ‘You need to make sure that you have a strong passwords and multifactor authentication,’ which people not even quite sure what that means. You need to protect yourself and change your passwords. Be prepared. Act as if you know that attack is coming, because if it comes and you’re not ready, it can be devastating. Your access to your money, your ability to make purchases. You do not want to be there at a place where you would say to yourself, ‘I wish I had taken steps.’
“This is the warning. This is the warning in light of what’s happening globally. This is what is happening, throughout a normal course of our years, as we’ve seen with these attacks, we’ve experienced over the last decade. And so, now is the time for New Yorkers to be prepared. And those of us with older parents or grandparents, tell them not to open up an email if they do not know, it’s not pictures from their grandchildren, don’t open it up. Because there really is a lot of phishing going on, a lot of opportunities for people to really take your personal information and use it in nefarious ways. And so we want to make sure that our older loved ones hear this warning, understand what they need to do, or not do, in a circumstance that we’re describing here as well.
“So, I’ll close by saying the threat of cyber-attacks is very real. Particularly now, that is the warning we’re receiving out of Washington, particularly for a place like New York, and therefore our state and our cities will be taking a leading role in fortifying our defenses in the battlefield against cyber warfare.
“And we will be as relentless in our defense as the criminals are in their aggression. Mark my words, we will thwart them at every step of the way. And this is proof of what we’re doing here today. Again,first in the nation. And I do hope that other states and other governors will follow the lead of what we’re doing here today.”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said,”New York City is a prime target for those who want to attack our cyber infrastructure to cause destruction. While New York City Cyber Command is already a national model for impeding these threats, it’s time our cybersecurity moved to the next level. We know that when it comes to cyberattacks, the difference between a minor disruption and a catastrophe can be a matter of minutes. That is why the new Joint Security Operations Center will take an integrated and holistic approach to hardening our cyber defenses across the state. I thank Governor Hochul and our fellow mayors for their partnership, and look forward to working with them to confront this common threat.”
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly said, “In today’s globally interconnected world, everyone plays a role in protecting Americans against the threat of cyberattacks. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) applauds the creation of the NY JSOC and, as always, stands ready to partner with our state and local counterparts in keeping New York’s critical infrastructure safe and secure. Proactive cybersecurity incident response and recovery planning will help mitigate risk and ensure a unified response when an incident happens. Collaboration is at the heart of CISA’s mission, and we look forward to supporting this effort as it becomes operational.”
Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said, “Thanks to Governor Hochul’s leadership and vision, we are bringing an integrated, statewide approach to cybersecurity with our government partners. The JSOC will become the nerve center for collecting intelligence on potential threats, keeping an eye out for intruders and breaches, and responding to cybersecurity threats and incidents.”
New York State Office of Information Technology Services Chief Information Officer Angelo “Tony” Riddick said,”Governor Hochul’s commitment to safeguard our state’s infrastructure and the personal information of all New Yorkers has been a priority since her first day in office. The new normal of constant cyber risks threaten every level of government, so we must take innovative steps and work together. Creation of a JSOC will better protect our information and ensure we remain even more vigilant against cybercrime while keeping New Yorkers safe.”
New York State Police Superintendent Kevin Bruen said,”Collaboration and information sharing are crucially important when it comes to providing security and assessing threats. We appreciate the efforts by Governor Hochul to form this innovative partnership, which will help strengthen cybersecurity efforts and improve response to future incidents.”
Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said, “The safety and security of the Port Authority’s transportation facilities remain the highest priority of the Port Authority – including a relentless focus on cybersecurity. We applaud Governor Hochul, Mayor Adams and leaders from across the state for creating the JSOC that will enhance the ability of government agencies to identify, resource and implement best practices TO combat cyber threats as they continue to evolve.”
Interim President and CEO of New York Power Authority Justin E. Driscoll said,”As the nation’s largest public state utility, cybersecurity is of utmost importance to NYPA. We are thankful to our city and state partners for their collaboration in creating the JSOC. This center will help NYPA keep our systems safe and enable us to continue to generate clean electricity and maintain one-third of the state’s transmission system without incident or interruption, all while providing a whole-of-state approach to protecting New York State from emerging threats.”
MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said, “Cross-agency collaboration is key to providing the best cyber defenses. We are eager to share information and expertise about the MTA’s multilayered cybersecurity systems as we work to protect the state against potential threats.”
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said, “Every day, the City of Albany – like organizations across the nation – defends itself against cyber attacks originating from across the globe. As the victim of a successful ransomeware attack in 2019, the City of Albany knows full well the impact this cybersecurity threat can have on the systems that serve our residents and protect our infrastructure. Thankfully, New York State was there for us when it mattered most, and now we will proactively partner within the Joint Security Operations Center to help identify and respond to cybersecurity threats not only to our city, but other local and state agencies across New York. Thank you to Governor Hochul, Commissioner Bray, and Chief Information Officer Riddick for making this investment and deepening the vital partnerships that will help protect our entire state.”
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, “Cyber attacks are an emerging threat that state and local governments must take swift action to protect against, and I am thankful Governor Hochul has the vision to apply a statewide, all-hands-on-deck approach to ensure our safety. I am pleased that Buffalo is part of the launch of this first-of-its-kind Joint Security Operations Center that will position us to be better prepared to prevent, protect against, respond to and recover from cyberattacks.”
Rochester Mayor Malik Evans said, “We look forward to working with the state and our other municipal partners to address the critical issue of cybersecurity. We appreciate the Governor’s investment to protect our data. Any attacks on our technical infrastructure systems is actually an attack on the citizens we serve, so bolstering our defenses is a wholly worthwhile endeavor.”
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said,”Cybersecurity is a challenge facing every public and private sector organization every day. Cities are dealing with very similar vulnerabilities, threats and risks. Through the JSOC we will be better able to share intelligence and solutions and better protect our critical assets and the people we serve. I thank Governor Hochul for not just providing resources to our communities but for creating a command center so the state can share more data, information and expertise to confront this always-changing risk. We are always stronger working together.”
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said,”The recent wave of cyber security attacks serves as a wake-up call for cities across our country. I thank Governor Hochul for her proactive approach in giving Mayors, who are the generals on the frontlines, a seat at the table to work one on one with some of the most brilliant cyber defense minds in the country as we amplify our cyber security.”
Back in August, President Biden met with private sector and education leaders to discuss the whole-of-nation effort needed to address cybersecurity threats. Recent high-profile cybersecurity incidents demonstrate that both U.S. public and private sector entities increasingly face sophisticated malicious cyber activity. Cybersecurity threats and incidents affect businesses of all sizes, small towns and cities in every corner of the country, and the pocketbooks of middle-class families. Compounding the challenge, nearly half a million public and private cybersecurity jobs remain unfilled. The White House provided a fact sheet outlining steps the Biden Administration is taking to address cybersecurity:
Cybersecurity is a national security and economic security imperative for the Biden Administration and we are prioritizing and elevating cybersecurity like never before. On May 12, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order that modernizes Federal Government defenses and improves the security of technology. To secure our critical infrastructure, this spring the Biden Administration launched a 100-day initiative to improve cybersecurity across the electric sector with others to follow. On July 28, the President issued a National Security Memorandum establishing voluntary cybersecurity goals that clearly outline our expectations for owners and operators of critical infrastructure. The Administration has also engaged with the private sector on the importance of prioritizing cybersecurity as a central part of their efforts to maintain business continuity. And internationally, the Biden Administration has rallied G7 countries to hold accountable nations who harbor ransomware criminals and to update NATO cyber policy for the first time in seven years.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss opportunities to bolster the nation’s cybersecurity in partnership and individually. Several participants announced commitments and initiatives including:
The Biden Administration announced that the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will collaborate with industry and other partners to develop a new framework to improve the security and integrity of the technology supply chain. The approach will serve as a guideline to public and private entities on how to build secure technology and assess the security of technology, including open source software. Microsoft, Google, Travelers, and Coalition committed to participating in this NIST-led initiative.
The Biden Administration also announced the formal expansion of the Industrial Control Systems Cybersecurity Initiative to a second major sector: natural gas pipelines. The Initiative has already improved the cybersecurity of more than 150 electric utilities that serve 90 million Americans.
Apple announced it will establish a new program to drive continuous security improvements throughout the technology supply chain. As part of that program, Apple will work with its suppliers — including more than 9,000 in the United States— to drive the mass adoption of multi-factor authentication, security training, vulnerability remediation, event logging, and incident response.
Google announced it will invest $10 billion over the next five years to expand zero-trust programs, help secure the software supply chain, and enhance open-source security. Google also announced it will help 100,000 Americans earn industry-recognized digital skills certificates that provide the knowledge that can lead to secure high-paying, high-growth jobs.
IBM announced it will train 150,000 people in cybersecurity skills over the next three years, and will partner with more than 20 Historically Black Colleges & Universities to establish Cybersecurity Leadership Centers to grow a more diverse cyber workforce.
Microsoft announced it will invest $20 billion over the next 5 years to accelerate efforts to integrate cyber security by design and deliver advanced security solutions.Microsoft also announced it will immediately make available $150 million in technical services to help federal, state, and local governments with upgrading security protection, and will expand partnerships with community colleges and non-profits for cybersecurity training.
Amazon announced it will make available to the public at no charge the security awareness training it offers its employees. Amazon also announced it will make available to all Amazon Web Services account holders at no additional cost, a multi-factor authentication device to protect against cybersecurity threats like phishing and password theft.
Resilience, a cyber insurance provider, announced it will require policy holders to meet a threshold of cybersecurity best practice as a condition of receiving coverage.
Coalition, a cyber insurance provider, announced it will make its cybersecurity risk assessment & continuous monitoring platform available for free to any organization.
Code.org announced it will teach cybersecurity concepts to over 3 million students across 35,000 classrooms over 3 years, to teach a diverse population of students how to stay safe online, and to build interest in cybersecurity as a potential career.
Girls Who Code announced it will establish a micro credentialing program for historically excluded groups in technology. The program will make scholarships and early career opportunities more accessible to underrepresented groups.
University of Texas System announced it will expand existing and develop new short-term credentials in cyber-related fields to strengthen America’s cybersecurity workforce. A major part of this effort will be to upskill and reskill over 1 million workers across the nation by making available entry-level cyber educational programs through UT San Antonio’s Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute. Credentials do not depend on traditional degree pathways, and should also contribute significantly to diversifying the pipeline.
Whatcom Community College announced it has been designated the new NSF Advanced Technological Education National Cybersecurity Center, and will provide cybersecurity education and training to faculty and support program development for colleges to “fast-track” students from college to career. The nature of community colleges dispersed in every community in the nation makes them an ideal pipeline for increasing diversity and inclusion in the cybersecurity workforce.
The White House provided this fact sheet of “Top 10 Programs” in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act:
Weatherization: Two-thirds of low-income U.S. households have high energy burdens, meaning they spend more than 6 percent of their income on utility bills. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will invest a historic $3.5 billion in the Weatherization Assistance Program, reducing energy costs for more than 700,000 low-income households by increasing the energy efficiency of their homes, while ensuring health and safety and creating jobs.
Wildfires: One estimate found that 4.5 million homes in the United States are at risk of wildfire. The bill invests $8 billion in wildfire risk reduction by providing funding for community wildfire defense grants, mechanical thinning, controlled burns, the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program, and firefighting resources.
Floods: The cost of flood damage was approximately $17 billion annually in the last decade, and is expected to increase significantly due climate-related extreme weather and rising sea levels. The bill invests $12 billion in flood mitigation, including funding for FEMA flood mitigation grants, making infrastructure investments to increase coastal resilience, and improving mapping and data so that households and businesses can better protect themselves from future flood events.
Brownfields and superfund: 26% of Black Americans and 29% of Hispanic Americans live within 3 miles of a Superfund site, a higher percentage than for Americans overall. Proximity to a Superfund site can lead to elevated levels of lead in children’s blood. The deal invests $5 billion in addressing legacy pollution at these sites, creating good-paying union jobs and advancing economic and environmental justice.
Natural gas wells and coal mines: In thousands of rural and urban communities around the country, hundreds of thousands of former industrial and energy sites, including orphan wells and abandoned land mines, are now idle – sources of blight and pollution. The deal invests $16 billion in creating good-paying union jobs capping these wells and mines.
Pipeline safety: More than 20,000 miles of cast iron pipelines—much of which was installed in the 1800’s and early 1900’s—transports natural gas underneath communities in the U.S. This infrastructure, which is prone to leaks and fugitive methane emissions, is mostly located in disadvantaged areas including older cities like Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore, New York, and St. Louis. Since 2010, the U.S. has experienced thousands of pipeline incidents, resulting in hundreds of injuries and deaths, tens of thousands of evacuations, and more than $4 billion in damages. The bill includes $1 billion for the “Natural Gas Distribution Infrastructure Safety and Modernization Grant Program” to modernize natural gas distribution pipelines, reducing incidents and fatalities, and avoiding economic losses.
Battery manufacturing: Today, the U.S. relies heavily on importing advanced battery components from abroad, exposing the nation to supply chain vulnerabilities that threaten to disrupt the availability and cost of these technologies, as well as the workforce that manufactures them. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will invest $6B to spur U.S. advanced battery processing, manufacturing, and recycling, creating good-paying jobs and enabling American manufacturers to win the 21st century.
Safe Streets: Over 36,000 Americans died in motor vehicle crashes in 2019, including over 6,200 pedestrians and about 850 bicyclists. The United States has one of the highest traffic fatality rates in the industrialized world, double the rate in Canada and quadruple that in Europe. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal includes $5 billion for a first-of-its kind “Safe Streets for All” program to fund state and local “vision zero” plans and other improvements to reduce crashes and fatalities, especially for the most vulnerable of roadways users.
Transit station ADA program: More than 30 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, nearly 1,000 transit stations are still not fully accessible, which prevents millions of older Americans and individuals with disabilities from fully enjoying public transit. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal includes a total of $2 billion for transit ADA, including $1.75 billion for All Stations Accessibility and $250 million for Enhanced Mobility for Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities. These programs will remove barriers to transportation service and expand transportation mobility options for Americans across the country.
Cybersecurity: The recent cybersecurity breaches of federal government data systems, critical infrastructure, and American businesses underscore the importance and urgency of strengthening U.S. cybersecurity capabilities. The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will invest about $2 billion to modernize and secure federal, state, and local IT and networks; protect critical infrastructure and utilities; and support public or private entities as they respond to and recover from significant cyberattacks and breaches.
Today, just days after Colonial Pipeline, which supplies 45 percent of the gasoline to the Eastern Seaboard, was hit by a ransomware attack which the FBI believes was perpetrated by DarkSide, a relatively new criminal group based in Eastern Europe exposed the vulnerability of key U.S. infrastructure, President Biden signed an Executive Order to improve the nation’s cybersecurity and protect federal government networks.
The White House supplied this fact sheet about the actions taken under the Executive Order:
Recent cybersecurity incidents such as SolarWinds, Microsoft Exchange, and the Colonial Pipeline incident are a sobering reminder that U.S. public and private sector entities increasingly face sophisticated malicious cyber activity from both nation-state actors and cyber criminals. These incidents share commonalities, including insufficient cybersecurity defenses that leave public and private sector entities more vulnerable to incidents.
This Executive Order makes a significant contribution toward modernizing cybersecurity defenses by protecting federal networks, improving information-sharing between the U.S. government and the private sector on cyber issues, and strengthening the United States’ ability to respond to incidents when they occur. It is the first of many ambitious steps the Administration is taking to modernize national cyber defenses. However, the Colonial Pipeline incident is a reminder that federal action alone is not enough. Much of our domestic critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector, and those private sector companies make their own determination regarding cybersecurity investments. We encourage private sector companies to follow the Federal government’s lead and take ambitious measures to augment and align cybersecurity investments with the goal of minimizing future incidents.
Specifically, the Executive Order the President is signing today will:
Remove Barriers to Threat Information Sharing Between Government and the Private Sector. The Executive Order ensures that IT Service Providers are able to share information with the government and requires them to share certain breach information. IT providers are often hesitant or unable to voluntarily share information about a compromise. Sometimes this can be due to contractual obligations; in other cases, providers simply may be hesitant to share information about their own security breaches. Removing any contractual barriers and requiring providers to share breach information that could impact Government networks is necessary to enable more effective defenses of Federal departments, and to improve the Nation’s cybersecurity as a whole.
Modernize and Implement Stronger Cybersecurity Standards in the Federal Government. The Executive Order helps move the Federal government to secure cloud services and a zero-trust architecture, and mandates deployment of multifactor authentication and encryption with a specific time period. Outdated security models and unencrypted data have led to compromises of systems in the public and private sectors. The Federal government must lead the way and increase its adoption of security best practices, including by employing a zero-trust security model, accelerating movement to secure cloud services, and consistently deploying foundational security tools such as multifactor authentication and encryption.
Improve Software Supply Chain Security. The Executive Order will improve the security of software by establishing baseline security standards for development of software sold to the government, including requiring developers to maintain greater visibility into their software and making security data publicly available. It stands up a concurrent public-private process to develop new and innovative approaches to secure software development and uses the power of Federal procurement to incentivize the market. Finally, it creates a pilot program to create an “energy star” type of label so the government – and the public at large – can quickly determine whether software was developed securely. Too much of our software, including critical software, is shipped with significant vulnerabilities that our adversaries exploit. This is a long-standing, well-known problem, but for too long we have kicked the can down the road. We need to use the purchasing power of the Federal Government to drive the market to build security into all software from the ground up.
Establish a Cybersecurity Safety Review Board. The Executive Order establishes a Cybersecurity Safety Review Board, co-chaired by government and private sector leads, that may convene following a significant cyber incident to analyze what happened and make concrete recommendations for improving cybersecurity. Too often organizations repeat the mistakes of the past and do not learn lessons from significant cyber incidents. When something goes wrong, the Administration and private sector need to ask the hard questions and make the necessary improvements. This board is modeled after the National Transportation Safety Board, which is used after airplane crashes and other incidents.
Create a Standard Playbook for Responding to Cyber Incidents. The Executive Order creates a standardized playbook and set of definitions for cyber incident response by federal departments and agencies. Organizations cannot wait until they are compromised to figure out how to respond to an attack. Recent incidents have shown that within the government the maturity level of response plans vary widely. The playbook will ensure all Federal agencies meet a certain threshold and are prepared to take uniform steps to identify and mitigate a threat. The playbook will also provide the private sector with a template for its response efforts.
Improve Detection of Cybersecurity Incidents on Federal Government Networks. The Executive Order improves the ability to detect malicious cyber activity on federal networks by enabling a government-wide endpoint detection and response system and improved information sharing within the Federal government. Slow and inconsistent deployment of foundational cybersecurity tools and practices leaves an organization exposed to adversaries. The Federal government should lead in cybersecurity, and strong, Government-wide Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) deployment coupled with robust intra-governmental information sharing are essential.
Improve Investigative and Remediation Capabilities. The Executive Order creates cybersecurity event log requirements for federal departments and agencies. Poor logging hampers an organization’s ability to detect intrusions, mitigate those in progress, and determine the extent of an incident after the fact. Robust and consistent logging practices will solve much of this problem.
In the wake of Donald Trump’s apparent indifference to the continued threat of Russia and other actors against elections, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a comprehensive initiative with the State Board of Elections to further secure New York State’s elections infrastructure and protect against foreign interference. The initiative will help County Boards of Elections strengthen their election cyber security in the face of foreign threats after the Department of Justice released an indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking during the 2016 elections, which also alleged that Russian intelligence officers hacked into the website of a yet-unidentified state board of elections.
In the FY 2019 budget, Governor Cuomo secured $5 million to expand and further support statewide election cyber security infrastructure. The State will solicit contracts in the next few days for three independent services for County Boards of Elections, including: 1) cyber security risk assessments; 2) enhanced intrusion detection devices; and 3) managed security services. The State’s Secure Election Center, managed by the State Board of Elections, will also provide statewide, uniform cybersecurity training to all state and county election officials and staff prior to the Midterm Elections.
“While President Trump stands by those who seek to undermine our democracy, New York is taking aggressive action to protect our elections from foreign interference,” Governor Cuomo said. “There is nothing more sacred than democracy, and New Yorkers should know that when they cast their ballot that their vote is safe. The groundbreaking cyber security initiative we launch today will harden and protect our election infrastructure from the very real threat of foreign meddling. While the President has abdicated his responsibility to defend this country and left our electoral system open to sabotage by foreign adversaries, New York is fighting back and leading the way.”
“The integrity of our Elections system is our number one priority,”Co-Executive Director of the State Board of Elections Robert A. Brehmsaid. “The State Board has and will continue to diligently work and collaborate with our federal, state and county partners to strengthen and protect our elections infrastructure from any interference.”
“We have been working diligently since the 2016 election to improve security at the State Board, including our statewide voter registration database and networks with our counties,” Co-Executive Director of the State Board of Elections Todd D. Valentine said. “These additional services will ensure publicly facing applications and infrastructure for the county boards of elections will be more secure and better position the entire state elections system to respond to cyber incidents. These new revelations only serve to confirm that the measures we have taken so far to protect our elections are necessary and we have to remain vigilant as we move into the mid-term elections.”
This initiative builds on Governor Cuomo’s commitment to ensuring the integrity of elections in New York State. The State will execute contractsbeginning the first week of August through the Office of General Services on behalf of the State Board of Elections.
Comprehensive Risk Assessment for all County Boards of Election
The State Board of Elections will contract for professional services to conduct a comprehensive, uniform and verified risk assessment at every County Board of Elections. The State Board of Elections has conducted a County Board of Elections risk survey to gain an understanding of the security posture of each county board. This risk assessment will build off the county risk survey. This contract will provide a uniform and verified third party risk assessment which is critical in ascertaining a security baseline for our statewide elections infrastructure.
Enhanced Intrusion Detection Systems and Managed Security Services for County Boards of Election
Additionally, the State Board of Elections will contract for a vendor to provide enhanced intrusion detection systems and managed security services for all the County Boards of Elections. An intrusion detection system is a system that monitors network traffic for suspicious activity and issues alerts when such activity is discovered. Managed Security Services correlate logs/traffic and creates actionable reports on malicious cyber activity. Quote solicitations will seek to identify qualified companies on backdrop contracts that can fulfill the request for these services.
Cyber Security Training Program
The Secure Elections Center, housed in NYSBOE, will provide uniform online technical training courses and security awareness programs to all state and county election officials and staff. These web-based trainings will be provided prior to the 2018 Midterm Elections. As part of these trainings, officials and staff will learn cyber-hygiene, best email practices and how to identify phishing campaigns, among other topics.
This initiative will build upon Governor Cuomo’s efforts to safeguard New York State elections including:
The State Board of Elections recently concluded a first-of-its-kind series of six regional tabletop exercises to identify risks and safeguard the election process against a cyber-attack. The State Board is coordinating with the federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide three on-line tabletop exercises in August 2018 for county election and IT professionals.
Following the Governor’s 2018 State of the State proposals in January, New York was recognized as having one of the most secure elections systems in the nation in the Center for American Progress’ recent report.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said, “With the Trump administration putting our country at risk and continuing to ignore the reality of Russian election interference, it’s up to New York to lead the way once again to protect the integrity of our elections. Sadly, we can’t count on the current federal government to protect us from threats of foreign election meddling. Our new cyber security initiative will give New Yorkers peace of mind as they go to the ballot box and will protect our democracy from those who seek to cause harm.”
William Pelgrin, Co-Chair of Governor Cuomo’s Cyber Security Advisory Board, Founder of the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), CEO of CyberWA, Inc., and Board Director and Global Strategic Advisor for Global Cyber Alliance, said,“This announcement again demonstrates Governor Cuomo’s and New York’s strong commitment toward an enhanced cyber security posture. This initiative will greatly assist County Board of Elections by facilitating the process to identify and deploy key essential layers of cyber security. Cyber security risk assessments and intrusion detection devices are critical layers of preparedness to understand one’s computing infrastructure and what is required to address any associated risks as well as continuously monitoring that environment for malicious activities.”
Richard Clarke, Governor Cuomo’s Cyber Security Advisory Board Member, Chairman and CEO, Good Harbor Consulting, LLC and Former White House Counter-Terrorism and Cyber Security Advisor, said, “Given the Intelligence Community’s assessment that Russian efforts to interfere in our democracy continue, Governor Cuomo’s steps to protect the election infrastructure are commendable and should be immediately copied by other states.”
New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Roger Parrino said, “Security of our election process is paramount. These initiatives support our state and local partners to strengthen our election cyber infrastructure from those who seek to manipulate our election process.”
New York State Office of General Service Commissioner RoAnnDestito said,“Governor Cuomo has been clear that secure elections are fundamental to democracy and these steps by the Board of Elections will help further protect this process in New York State.”
After Trump tried to undo the damage of his statements in Helsinki by claiming that he “misspoke” when he left out “not” regarding whether Russia was to blame for hacking the 2016 election, Cuomo took him to task.
“Mr. President: Do you think the American people are stupid? You’re the leader of the free world – you don’t misspeak when it comes to our foreign enemies. You shamefully defended those who tried to sabotage our democracy, and now Congress must decide if your remarks or actions were in fact treasonous.
“While it’s clear we cannot rely on this federal government to protect the sanctity of our elections, New York will do everything in its power to. In light of this potential foreign interference, today we announced a groundbreaking cyber security initiative to strengthen our election infrastructure. I urge Congress to step up and do the same.”
In Helsinki, Trump had said, “I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server.” The next day, in a room full of Republican Congressmembers, Trump claimed that he should have said, “would not be”.
A dialogue between Malcolm Nance, a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridis who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, senior military assistant to the Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of Defense, moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. It proved to be a seminar on foreign policy, with some tough words for the need to defend democracy against a tide of anti-democratic, authoritarian forces both domestic and foreign. “We have to solve this –at the ballot box.”
Here are highlights from the provocative discussion:
Errol Louis: Moderator: Both of you were at the Pentagon on 9/11; Nance was even an eyewitness. With the rise of terrorism, how safe are we?
Malcolm Nance: Since 9/11, we went for a short while in the correct direction in counterterrorism, bringing the world together to confront global threat. Unfortunately the invasion of Iraq in 2003 broke the mechanisms in Mideast that were functioning – poorly, but indigenous – strongman dictators. Once we invaded, we unleashed demons we could not foresee. The ebb and flow of regional solutions all went out the window.
Before, the hardest problem was people trying to solve Palestinian problem. That’s nothing compared to radical Islam. You can negotiate with Palestinians, even Hamas, groups in Iran.
We have a bigger problem: just keeping the democratic norms in the world, not just US. Democracy as an ideology is now under attack, every day.
Admiral James Stavridis: I agree. Go back 100 years – 1918. The world is coming out of World War I, Spanish influenza pandemic sweeping, 40% of world’s population were infected, 20% of those will die. US walking away from Europe, isolating ourselves, rejects the League of Nations, erects enormous tariff barriers – cracked the global economy. You can drop a line from that to the rise of fascism and World War II. That is a dark global picture.
We have mechanisms to deal with many of the challenges but agree [with Nance] that the whole ideology of democracy is wrapped up in great power politics, the rise of two authoritarian figures- Putin [just “re-elected” to a fourth term]. President Xi Jinping isn’t even putting on faux election, he declared himself the new emperor. These authoritarian systems are a challenge to democracies in ways we haven’t dealt with in 100 years.
We have two other concerns: a new pandemic – don’t spend much time thinking – but every 100-200 years of human history, a pandemic rises, despite fact of enormous advances in medicine. We are due for one – ability to manipulate genome can allow dark dark work. [Consider how Trump has cut funding to the CDC, and would likely not step in to stop a new outbreak of Ebola or Zika outside the US.]
Our vulnerability is in cyber. We are utterly dependent on massive cyber systems. We are at great risk – that’s where the two strains – cyber vulnerability and way authoritarian regimes will come after us – those streams are crossing – we have work to do, tools,
So, how safe are we? We have challenges, but I am cautiously optimistic. The question is whether our democracy will put in the right people.
Louis:Pointing to [Trump’s] new direction in foreign policy [and the fact that the State Department is considering removing ‘human rights’ from its mission statement], why is it to our advantage to fight for democracy and human rights and why is this not a form of international charity?
Nance: NATO, after World War II [was devised] to stop wars by creating a grand alliance – to spread that ideology around the world., not just American democracy, but allow others to develop their own form of republic, democratic governorship, whether a constitutional monarchy or a republic like France. That is under attack. Democracy is in retreat. ‘Democracy’ has been removed from mission statement of the State Department.
When we were struck on 9/11, it hurt me deeply – I spent my life in worst parts of world getting back. Now, that threat is from within – people in our country do not believe in democracy; autocracy, as being pushed by [Putin] former director of KGB, is better alternative to liberal democracy and European parliamentary democracy-Iit’s all under attack.
It is not a charity – America doesn’t do this as charity. We invented globalism – in WWII –we literally dropped it out of airplanes; people wanted our products at the end of war. Now people believe our system of economy is fundamentally wrong, NATO should be disbanded, the European Union should go away and every country in Europe should be its own autocracy with Moscow as polar center. There are people in US government who believe that.
Stavridis: Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value. That’s why we worry about authoritarianism –eventually [discontentment] will blow, and when that happens [authoritarian regimes] will go in search of monsters abroad, look for scapegoats, combat operations. We ought to be very concerned about authoritarianism.
What do we do about it? What’s our move? A couple of different things can do – continue to rely on a system of alliances – that’s why we should worry about tariff barriers, and walking away from NATO, that take global structures apart. We need to rely on those. We need to get vastly better at strategic communications, explaining our ideas. War of ideas? It’s a marketplace of ideas. We have to compete – democracy, liberty, freedom of speech, education, assembly, racial and gender equality – we execute them imperfectly but they are the right ideas. We have to communicate that in ways that get beyond ‘We have the right answer.’ Lay it out pragmatically: why it works. Because there are forces pushing against it.
Louis: Trump’s statements about NATO alarmed people, [yet] US deployed troops to Poland as part of NATO task force exercises. Is his rhetoric worse than reality?
Stavridis: Candidate Trump said NATO was obsolete and he would consider pulling out altogether. Fortunately, on this subject, he [appears to have] listened to General Mattis, the Defense Secretary; General McMaster, National Security Adviser [so far], Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (oops). But on NATO, I am cautiously optimist he has gotten the message that NATO really works.
Nance: NATO is 28 nations, 52% of world’s GDP, 3 million troops under arms, 24,000 combat aircraft, 800 warships, 50 early warning aircraft – it is the richest, most powerful alliance in human history. US spends $600 billion/year on defense, the Europeans $300 billion. To put that into perspective, Russians spend $80 billion, Chinese $150 billion. We outspend in part because of our European allies – they should spend 2%, and are on track to do so in next 3-5 years. The alliance remains fundamental to US – it is pragmatic value for US to be in alliance.
Where did this idea come into Trump’s head that NATO wasn’t a good value, that US was connected to countries not paying their fair share? In November 2013, Trump went to Russia for the Miss Universe pageant and while he was there, he was brought to a private 2 hour meeting arranged by Aras Agalarov, [a billionaire Russian real estate mogul with ties to Putin] who funded the pageant, in a restaurant owned by Galaroff. [Trump] came out of that meeting spouting the Kremlin party line – anti-NATO, anti-globalization, anti European Union, anti treaties and alliances, believing that Russia is the premiere superpower. The only thing we don’t know is whether he believed it or whether some inducement got him to believe – he said it during campaign. Now he seems to have some change of view. NATO [which Admiral Stavridis once commanded] unilaterally evoked Article 5 after [the US was attacked on] 9/11 – for 10 years they gave their blood and treasure to defense of this nation. This is the single greatest force for good since world War II. Russia wants to do away with NATO – they call us Atlanticist, globalist – their philosopher Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin [who holds fascist views] convinced Steve Bannon, almost the Goebels of the anti-democratic movement, goes around the world, trains, help foster other countries to believe the Atlantic alliance is the problem in the eastern and western hemisphere.
Stavridis: Why NATO matters: 1) The values we share. We will never see another pool of partners who have these values. It is no coincidence because [the Founding Fathers] got them from Europe, from the Enlightenment. 2) The geographic position of Europe matters – why we need those Cold War bases in Europe – those are forward operating stations in the global war on terror 3) It’s the economy and trade between US and the NATO countries.
Also, when I commanded 150,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, the nation that lost the most on a per capita basis was Estonia. Number 2 was the Netherlands. The US was number 3. They were with us in that fight because we had been attacked on 9/11. This is an alliance that stands and delivers for us. (applause)
Louis: What does [Trump’s] firing of [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson mean in the broader sense. Is it deliberate, a competence question, a larger crisis, an administration not executing?
Stavridis: When Secretary Tillerson got the job, I thought it was a good choice –a global businessman, contacts all over the world, quiet, laconic, very serious Texan, tough minded. I thought it an interesting choice, it might turn out well. But Tillerson simply was not a very effective Secretary of State. He couldn’t gain real connectivity in the White House – in a state of constant chaos. How can you be Secretary of State for a president who one minute, says, ‘We will solve Korea with fire and fury like never seen – a preemptive declaration of war –and three months later, be ready to go and cut ‘the deal of the century’ – a defensible policy choices but not for same person. So to be Secretary of State trying to articulating that –the work of Sisyphus, boulder rolling down. As a result, morale in the State Department cratered, applications for foreign service are down 50% in the last 2 years. You don’t get that back –you lose a generation if you can’t fill those slots, let alone, not filling crucial ambassadorships [including South Korea]. This is as bleak a moment for American diplomacy. A chaotic inexperienced White House that sadly doesn’t seem to be getting better in 14 months (feels like 14 yrs).
Nance: It appears diplomacy has shifted over to war fighters. Trump thinks diplomacy is not speaking, thinks diplomacy is a big stick, and if everyone sees us as a big stick nation, there will be no communications. The acting Secretary of State is technically Ivanka Trump –Trump is using Ivanka and Jared as an alternate State Department because Trump doesn’t know what the state department is, what diplomacy is. His way of negotiating is threatening –he sees no value in the institution or maintaining. [He is defunding the State Department, institutes]. But the institutes (nongovernmental) are there to help foster democracy and republicanism within countries. They brought about change in countries that would otherwise become a dictatorship – gone. A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.
Louis:Will the opening of US embassy in Jerusalem bring about a cataclysm?
Nance: It could happen. What’s happening in Mideast – so much change, dynamics. You can even see in how the Israeli-Palestinian problem is pushed off – rise of Iran, Syria, Turks invading northern Syria and setting up against the entirety of Kurds (who we fund), Yemen. Palestine-Israel conflict is the ‘good ol days.’. When the deed is done, and US embassy is moved, Saudis may give head tilt to that. I don’t know if there will be another intifada – the strings were cut after the Iraq invasion.
Stavridis: These kinds of conflicts – religious with a geopolitical overlay – are very dug in, and go on and on. The really bad news is that in middle is our greatest friend and ally in the region, Israel.
What should we do? Four things: stand with Israel – (applause)- the reasons are pragmatic, values, all the same things that make us want to be in NATO, should energize our alliance with Israel – 2) Need to work closely with Sunnis (Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, Egypt, Jordan). The Saudis are giving head nod on the peace plan, drawing closer to Israel, willing to exchange information, intelligence, missile defense, early warning. Why? because both are concerned about Iran (which is Shi’a). We ought to understand the Iranian self-view: we think of them as mid-size power, they think of themselves as inheritors of the Persian Empire which 2000 years ago, dominated the region. That’s what they want to reconstruct. Working with Israel, alliances, better in cyber, insuring missile defense strong, stand with Israel.
Louis:How to address the humanitarian disaster in Syria, knowing Russia is smack in the middle?
Nance: We had the opportunity to crack this nut in 2012 after Assad’s chemical attack. I advocated then to destroy the Syrian air force utterly – that’s the strategic advantage Syria has over the allies. Then you have put Israel in powerful position; limits Iranian involvement (because they won’t have a runway to land), and gives opportunity to show Arab States here is a chance to use ground forces to do humanitarian intervention. Arab League, Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis have enough forces to be in Damascus in 72 hours out of northern Jordan. But so long as Russia backed and Syria can resist, won’t do it.
Stavridis: We last saw a problem like Syria in the Balkans, 20 years ago: Yugoslavia blew up – forced migrations, 100,000s killed – like Mideast – Catholic Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Muslim Bosnians – a religious war with geopolitical overtones that was ultimately solved by partition. Yugoslavia was broken apart and created sub-states. That was imperfect but at the end of the day, that is what will happen in Syria – it is broken now, and won’t go back- that’s 3-5 years away.
Why is Iran in Syria? Iran wants a land bridge so it can move missiles and fighters from Tehran to Lebanon because that endangers Israel. That’s why we need to move to international solution that somewhat marginalizes Iranian influence – can do with leverage over Russia – the White House needs to get tough on Russia.
Louis:China. The notion they now have a president for life there, with no mechanism to change leadership – if there are internal problems, if there is a falling out within society or economy or ideology in a bad place, what happens?
Stavridis: The good news is that China will continue to grow at 5%. If they do, the population will stay relatively quiescent. But China’s road gets rough in out years- demographics – an aging population, the imbalance between men and women created by the One-Child policy which led to killing baby girls. We’ve never seen a society as ill balanced. Plus, China’s environment is disaster, requiring billions if not trillions to remediate. The housing market is overheated (reminiscent of 2008 in US). With no democracy, there is no way to relieve the pressure. Xi will have smooth run for awhile, but it gets rough in 5-10 years. That’s when we should worry about Chinese foreign policy that is nationalistic, seeks to find a scapegoat outside, and look for conflict in South China Sea. (See the movie, “The Last Emperor,” about Puyi and read Robert Kaplan’s, Asia’s Cauldron”.)
Louis:What is Putin’s end game?
Nance: Putin has imperial goals – Atlantic Alliance between Washington and European states has since WWII brought economic, cultural influences Russia cannot stand – They believe it has marginalized Russia’s limited economic power. All the good that has come from NATO, the EU single market, the US flow of traffic across Atlantic does no benefit to Moscow. Putin realizes that 75% of Russians live in the European part (75% of land in Asia). He believes Russia should be the pole in which Europe should do trade – EurAsianism. He is ruling more like Czar Nicolas I – religious orthodoxy, nationalism, autocracy (while France was creating fraternity, liberty, equality). Russia is buying every conservative, neoNazi group in Europe – owned, lock stock and barrel by Moscow.
Last march, for the second time in American history, France saved democracy – had Marine Le Pen won, France would have withdrawn from NATO,broken up the European Union and aligned France with Moscow, bringing along everyone to Moscow.
Stavridis: Putin’s end game: H will be the dominant force in Russia until the day he dies, and Russians accept it. This is Russian custom, history, culture. Read literature- Dostevsky, Pushkin – how Russians look at powerful male leaders. Sometimes they get a Peter the Great, the next time Ivan the Terrible; sometimes get Stalin, but then get a Gorbachev – they are willing to roll the dice. But the dice have landed on Putin, he will not give up power. We have to deal with this operative. I met Putin a couple of times. Bush Jr. met Putin and was completely taken –he said, ‘I looked into his eyes and saw his soul. We can work with Putin.’ McCain, a true war hero, met with Putin and said, ‘I saw 3 letters: K-G-B.’ I think McCain got that one right – and that’s what we will deal with.”
Is climate change a national security issue?
Stavridis: Climate change is a significant national security threat. Because of global warming, ice is melting in the Arctic, opening up shipping lanes and hydrocarbons, creating a great power competition – on one side is Russia, on the other side US, Canada, Iceland, Norway – they are all NATO; 2) Rising sea levels gradually affect our ports, our ability to operate in major naval bases and ports 3) Global warming will impact our ability to operate globally because of cost – we will have to mediate against environmental concerns, which will put downward pressure on defense budgets 4) What should worry us most is that as oceans heat up, photosynthesis is diminished affecting oxygen in the atmosphere. Vice President Gore called the Amazon the lungs of the earth; Nope, 70% of oxygen comes from photosynthesis in oceans, and we are abusing them. These are major national security concerns.
What if in the next few months Trump abrogates the Iran Nuclear Treaty?
Stavridis: I expect Trump to abrogate the Iran Nuclear Treaty. 1) That will have chilling effect on negotiations with North Korea – they are unlikely to enter into grand bargain having just witnessed the abrogation of the Iran treaty. 2) Iranians will almost immediately restart their nuclear program – they are probably in primed position to do so. 3) The treaty is not perfect but ending it will put Israel at greater risk because of re-energization of the Iranian nuclear program 4) Allies will be furious, it will put enormous strains on the NATO alliance, and probably not lead to European allies walking away, so US will become even more of an outlier. I wasn’t a fan initially – it isn’t a good/bad deal, it is a done deal, the best we could have at this point.
Nance: I spoke with a senior briefer at CIA who briefed Obama on the details that convinced Obama to sign the Iran Nuclear Treaty: The way the agency assessed, Iran was 6-12 months away from developing an atomic bomb, but with the treaty, Iran gave up all components, 90% of its enriched nuclear material and was pushed back 15 years We do not want a war with Iran. Why would we put ourselves in a position to give Iran the ability to have a nuclear weapon? There is no limit to the mischief that would create. And if [unleashed], Iran would go straight to North Korea with $ millions to buy a nuclear weapon.
How to solve the humanitarian disaster that is Syria?
Stavridis: A combination of defense, diplomacy, development – hard and soft power. [This was shown to work in Colombia, after a 60-year insurgency that destroyed the fabric of the country; and the Balkans.] You don’t have to choose hard or soft power. So often, the long game is combination of all those tools – development, diplomacy and defense when need it – to get balance right, requires leadership. We are very good at launching missiles. We need to get better at launching ideas. We can do both. (Applause)
Nance: That’s smart power. We are a global force for good but have to be global force for diplomacy.
Considering the hollowing out of our diplomatic forces to the benefit of Putin, [possible collusion] in cyberwarfare, why is there reluctance to use the word ‘treason’ in regard to Trump?
Nance: There is a legal definition – Article 3 – to ‘treason.’ You literally have to be at declared war with an enemy and give aid and comfort to enemy. That is rarely invoked – we have sent people to prison for espionage, divulging secrets but the last time anyone was tried for treason was the Rosenbergs. I don’t think that word applies legally – from what we’ve seen. Where the president violated his oath of office, you can use ‘treason’ rhetorically if you feel betrayed, or ‘treachery’. I don’t think will be able to use ‘treason’ in legal sense . this investigation started as national counter intel – a spy hunt – still a hunt for citizens in direct communications with foreign intel officers.
What check is there on this president who many think is a madman, is the military prepared to step in and save democracy?
Stavridis: ‘I solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic – no expiration. The military isn’t going to step in and solve this. We have to solve this –at the ballot box. In 1840, Alexis de Toqueville wrote about this strange new phenomenon of democracy. He was largely laudatory, but the punch line: ‘the tragedy of democracy is that in the end you elect the government you deserve.’ We need to own this problem. No one will solve it for us. We need to get out in November, and again two years later, and we can solve this problem.
Nance: We have entered the greatest period of political activism – I believe it will even eclipse the Vietnam era – 1968. But since World War II, we have gotten fat and lazy and enjoy fruits of democracy.
We have guardrails – you have 246 days to solve part of this problem – but to do that you have to bring yourself and everyone who has not voted in last election.
The military is not designed for coup d’etat. We would really be a third world banana republic. But we can stop stupid – unlawful orders.
Emperor Xi. China building pipelines through Africa into the Stans, helping China, become #1 in world, developing 5G. How will that affect us?
Stavridis: China historically has not had global ambition, but 16 months ago, President Xi gave a “coming out speech” at Davos for China in the 21st century: One belt, one road philosophy – using economic power to further the interests of China. China just built its first overseas military base, at the Horn of Africa. China is on the move. When historians 300 years from how write about the 21st century, how that story comes out will be US and China and the rise of India. We need to be mindful of China, align with India, hold close our global allies, help develop this hemisphere to the south of US. That ought to be our strategy. And China should be top of the list to watch.
Nance: If this administration would understand strategy: China is brilliant. Go to sub-Saharan Africa –that used to be the land of the Land Rover, then Toyota, now you see Chinese Long March and Running Deer pick ups – they are $2000-$5000 but are everywhere. China is colonizing the sub-Sahara economically– buying whole sub-sections of countries to ship food to China. If China develops 5G cell telephone networks before the US gets it into Manhattan, China can export worldwide and own global communications. China is building wind plants, is now the world’s largest producer of solar panels (an industry we used to own). Without a strategy, where you think about where we are, where we will go and put together government resources to get there, we are dead in water. And that requires diplomats.
To what do you attribute Iran’s vitriolic hatred for Israel?
Nance: Iranians love America –they are held down by an authoritarian regime using Islamic fundamentalism which the bottom 20% believe, not the people who used to run the country or could be, not the youth who all want what all in the Mideast want – a 2018 Toyota Corolla – they want trade, to be involved with world. Hatred for Israel is a schtick. They don’t really care – they care about religion, family and to be left alone to do what they want. If they see a threat to Al Aksa mosque, they will respond. Palestinians smartest arabs in mide, most educated – everywhere but Palestine – if I were them, would work out public-private partnership to rebuild Palestine as moderate state, so don’t get Islamic cultism of ISIS. If that happens, will be zombie scene, walk into guns. Hopefully Saudi Arabia will focus away from ‘Death to Israel.’
What is impact of Erdogan of Turkey turning his back on western values toward Islamic fundamentalism?
Stavridis: President Erdogan, an authoritarian, is consolidating power rapidly, the most accelerated of all the authoritarian leaders in having taken his nation from functioning secular democracy to one man rule in 5 years. Extraordinary. The bad news is that Turkey is vital to Europe, to US. We need a stable western-looking Turkey – now drifting out of our orbit. We should pay attention, show respect, send high level missions, but behind closed doors, convince Erdogan the trajectory he is on will isolate his nation,. He will never have cozy relationship with Russia or Iran – that won’t work for Turkey. Turkey understands that at a fundamental level. We need to work with Europeans to exert pull on Turkey also. Turkey is more than a bridge (between Asia and Europe), it is a center of power – its population will exceed Russia’s. Turkey is on the move. We need to keep them in our orbit.
The intel community wanted the $120 million appropriated by Congress to fend off cyberattacks on our electoral system. Homeland security issued an alert that Russians already in our computers that run powerplants, and now could turn off electricity. What do we do about that?
Stavridis: We need to reveal more about what we know, to underpin the argument for retaliation –so we can be more aggressive in how we retaliate. We need better private-public cooperation. Government can’t solve this by itself – all our electric grids are intertwined. We have got to get government agencies working together on cyber – agriculture, interior – nobody is focused on cybersecurity.
Considering the rise of authoritarians, what happens If in the next 3 months, Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and a new one fires Mueller. Will Trump be impeached?
Nance: Trump won’t be impeached before November. But we have guardrails. John Dean said that the day after Nixon fired Watergate investigators, the rest were still at work, he just fired the leadership. If Trump fires [Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein] (and [Special Counsel Robert] Muller), he would have sealed his doom about obstruction of justice and the investigation will continue
Stavridis: I believe Congress, including enough Republicans, would respond – not impeach, but there would be a [Constitutional] crisis and the guardrails would kick in.
In the present nuclear environment, is the doctrine of mutually assured destruction still relevant?
Today, President Obama authorized a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election in 2016. “Russia’s cyber activities were intended to influence the election, erode faith in U.S. democratic institutions, sow doubt about the integrity of our electoral process, and undermine confidence in the institutions of the U.S. government. These actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” the White House stated.
“Today, I have ordered a number of actions in response to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election,” President Obama stated . These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior.
“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions. In October, my Administration publicized our assessment that Russia took actions intended to interfere with the U.S. election process. These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government. Moreover, our diplomats have experienced an unacceptable level of harassment in Moscow by Russian security services and police over the last year. Such activities have consequences. Today, I have ordered a number of actions in response.”
The President issued an executive order that expands upon his authority to respond to certain cyber activity that seeks to interfere with or undermine our election processes and institutions, or those of our allies or partners.
Using this new authority, Obama sanctioned nine entities and individuals: the GRU and the FSB, two Russian intelligence services; four individual officers of the GRU; and three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations. In addition, the Secretary of the Treasury is designating two Russian individuals for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information. The State Department is also shutting down two Russian compounds, in Maryland and New York, that the government charges were being used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes. Also, the State Department is declaring “persona non grata” 35 Russian intelligence operatives who will have to leave the US within 72 hours.
Finally, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are releasing declassified technical information on Russian civilian and military intelligence service cyber activity –including the codes and IP addresses – to help network defenders in the United States and abroad identify, detect, and disrupt Russia’s global campaign of malicious cyber activities.
“These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities,” the President added. “We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized. In addition to holding Russia accountable for what it has done, the United States and friends and allies around the world must work together to oppose Russia’s efforts to undermine established international norms of behavior, and interfere with democratic governance. To that end, my Administration will be providing a report to Congress in the coming days about Russia’s efforts to interfere in our election, as well as malicious cyber activity related to our election cycle in previous elections.”
As for the timeline, senior administration officials, answering journalists’ questions, stated:
“Our first priority was publicly disclosing the information – it was most important to make public what we knew – and we did that October 7. That was a unique if not unprecedented step to come out with the common view of US intelligence agencies that a foreign power was influencing our election. We also wanted to give warning directly to the Russians, in public and in private, numerous times, that we knew what they were doing and were preparing a response. We wanted them to absorb that message and have that affect their behavior. We were concerned about securing the election – and there is no evidence that the Russians tampered with the vote. The priority for our cybersecurity efforts was to make sure our election was secure. But the material that had been hacked and was being released – it was not like that genie could be put back in the bottle. We were putting this together in context with [hacked] information being shared, publicly released and reported on by the news media. We wanted to do [respond] as methodically as possible: what we could do with sanctions, with diplomats, with the Joint Analysis Report (JAR), and preparing other elements.”
They added that it takes considerable time to put together a package of sanctions – you need to have the evidence sufficient to stand up in court to justify the actions.
“Sanctions packages are time consuming – establishing the basis, then finding the target list. JAR itself is complex procedure as putting together info we can share publicly that provides the best possible guidance about what we know – and response to harassment [of our diplomats] is something focusing on for some time.”
The incoming administration, under Donald Trump, has dismissed the allegations. Trump stated that “we should just get on with our lives,” and signaled he would undo sanctions leveled against Putin, including the sanctions that were put into place after Russia annexed Crimea and engaged in hostilities intended to overthrow the Ukrainian government.
But the Administration officials, pointing to “flagrant violation of norms” that have also seen in interference in our election as well as a level of harassment of US diplomats in Russia – one even being assaulted by a Russian police officer – along with malicious cyber attacks that have been leveled against critical American infrastructure and American companies. to a level that is unprecedented during in the post-Cold War era and has been developing over a period of years,” threaten national security and democratic regimes.
“There is no debate in the US administration: it is a fact that Russia interfered in our democratic election. We have established that to our satisfaction. We would never expect Russia to acknowledge what they did, don’t do it; still deny they are interfering in Ukraine. We say to journalists, look at what they say and what they do. This is a country that has intervened in sovereign country even though can see – bombed civilians, but they deny it. It is not a ‘he said/she said’ situation. There are facts.”
“We have one president at a time. President Obama will execute the duties of his office until January 20. He’s acting on what he believes is in best interest of the United States.”
There are any number of actions that we’re taking that will [fall to next administration]. .When a new administration takes office, entirely in their judgment a to whether to continue the course we set in number of areas.
“But Russian actions have been sustained over an extended period of time, and by any definition, are against our national interest, not just the interests of this president – harassment of our diplomats is a direct threat of ability of US to conduct diplomacy. Interference with our election is a pattern we see in other western democracies, including some of our closest allies. Malicious cyber targeting of American critical infrastructure would be of concern to future administrations.
“We know from our own consultations this is of concern to American business, and we would expect future administrations to be concerned about the impact on the American economy of Russian cyber activity. We are taking these actions because of pattern of behavior of period of time, replicated in other countries. We believe is the right approach to take.
“We’re taking these actions consistent with our assessment of what Russia has done – they have been interfering in both the American democratic process and in the conduct of American diplomacy. That should concern all Americans and members of both parties – a sustained effort to both harass our diplomatic personnel and interfere in our democratic process. We have no reason to believe that Russia’s activities will cease – they have been engaged in malicious cyber activity not just here in the United States but in other democratic countries. One reason to sustain [these] activities is that there is every reason that Russia will continue to interfere… These are executive actions. If a future president decided to allow in Russian intelligence agents, reopen those diplomatic compounds that are being used for intelligence, that compromises US national security.”
Here are the details from the White House:
Sanctioning Malicious Russian Cyber Activity
In response to the threat to U.S. national security posed by Russian interference in our elections, the President has approved an amendment to Executive Order 13964. As originally issued in April 2015, this Executive Order created a new, targeted authority for the U.S. government to respond more effectively to the most significant of cyber threats, particularly in situations where malicious cyber actors operate beyond the reach of existing authorities. The original Executive Order focused on cyber-enabled malicious activities that:
Harm or significantly compromise the provision of services by entities in a critical infrastructure sector;
Significantly disrupt the availability of a computer or network of computers (for example, through a distributed denial-of-service attack); or
Cause a significant misappropriation of funds or economic resources, trade secrets, personal identifiers, or financial information for commercial or competitive advantage or private financial gain (for example, by stealing large quantities of credit card information, trade secrets, or sensitive information).
The increasing use of cyber-enabled means to undermine democratic processes at home and abroad, as exemplified by Russia’s recent activities, has made clear that a tool explicitly targeting attempts to interfere with elections is also warranted. As such, the President has approved amending Executive Order 13964 to authorize sanctions on those who:
Tamper with, alter, or cause a misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes or institutions.
Using this new authority, the President has sanctioned nine entities and individuals: two Russian intelligence services (the GRU and the FSB); four individual officers of the GRU; and three companies that provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations.
The Main Intelligence Directorate (a.k.a. Glavnoe Razvedyvatel’noe Upravlenie) (a.k.a. GRU) is involved in external collection using human intelligence officers and a variety of technical tools, and is designated for tampering, altering, or causing a misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with the 2016 U.S. election processes.
The Federal Security Service (a.k.a. Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti) (a.k.a FSB) assisted the GRU in conducting the activities described above.
The three other entities include the Special Technology Center (a.k.a. STLC, Ltd. Special Technology Center St. Petersburg) assisted the GRU in conducting signals intelligence operations; Zorsecurity (a.k.a. Esage Lab) provided the GRU with technical research and development; and the Autonomous Noncommercial Organization “Professional Association of Designers of Data Processing Systems” (a.k.a. ANO PO KSI) provided specialized training to the GRU.
Sanctioned individuals includeIgor Valentinovich Korobov, the current Chief of the GRU; Sergey Aleksandrovich Gizunov, Deputy Chief of the GRU; Igor Olegovich Kostyukov, a First Deputy Chief of the GRU; and Vladimir Stepanovich Alexseyev, also a First Deputy Chief of the GRU.
In addition, the Department of the Treasury is designating two Russian individuals,Evgeniy Bogachev and Aleksey Belan, under a pre-existing portion of the Executive Order for using cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information.
Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev is designated today for having engaged in significant malicious cyber-enabled misappropriation of financial information for private financial gain. Bogachev and his cybercriminal associates are responsible for the theft of over $100 million from U.S. financial institutions, Fortune 500 firms, universities, and government agencies.
Aleksey Alekseyevich Belan engaged in the significant malicious cyber-enabled misappropriation of personal identifiers for private financial gain. Belan compromised the computer networks of at least three major United States-based e-commerce companies.
Responding to Russian Harassment of U.S. Personnel
Over the past two years, harassment of our diplomatic personnel in Russia by security personnel and police has increased significantly and gone far beyond international diplomatic norms of behavior. Other Western Embassies have reported similar concerns. In response to this harassment, the President has authorized the following actions:
Today the State Department declared 35 Russian government officials from the Russian Embassy in Washington and the Russian Consulate in San Francisco “persona non grata.” They were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status. Those individuals and their families were given 72 hours to leave the United States.
In addition to this action, the Department of State has provided notice that as of noon on Friday, December 30, Russian access will be denied to two Russian government-owned compounds, one in Maryland and one in New York.
Raising Awareness About Russian Malicious Cyber Activity
The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation are releasing a Joint Analysis Report (JAR) that contains declassified technical information on Russian civilian and military intelligence services’ malicious cyber activity, to better help network defenders in the United States and abroad identify, detect, and disrupt Russia’s global campaign of malicious cyber activities.
The JAR includes information on computers around the world that Russian intelligence services have co-opted without the knowledge of their owners in order to conduct their malicious activity in a way that makes it difficult to trace back to Russia. In some cases, the cybersecurity community was aware of this infrastructure, in other cases, this information is newly declassified by the U.S. government.
The report also includes data that enables cybersecurity firms and other network defenders to identify certain malware that the Russian intelligence services use. Network defenders can use this information to identify and block Russian malware, forcing the Russian intelligence services to re-engineer their malware. This information is newly de-classified.
Finally, the JAR includes information on how Russian intelligence services typically conduct their activities. This information can help network defenders better identify new tactics or techniques that a malicious actor might deploy or detect and disrupt an ongoing intrusion.
This information will allow network defenders to take specific steps that can often block new activity or disrupt on-going intrusions by Russian intelligence services. DHS and FBI are encouraging security companies and private sector owners and operators to use this JAR and look back within their network traffic for signs of malicious activity. DHS and FBI are also encouraging security companies and private sector owners and operators to leverage these indicators in proactive defense efforts to block malicious cyber activity before it occurs. DHS has already added these indicators to their Automated Indicator Sharing service.
“Cyber threats pose one of the most serious economic and national security challenges the United States faces today. For the last eight years, this Administration has pursued a comprehensive strategy to confront these threats. And as we have demonstrated by these actions today, we intend to continue to employ the full range of authorities and tools, including diplomatic engagement, trade policy tools, and law enforcement mechanisms, to counter the threat posed by malicious cyber actors, regardless of their country of origin, to protect the national security of the United States,” the White House stated.
President Barack Obama has just ordered intelligence agencies to review cyber attacks and foreign intervention into the 2016 election and deliver a report before he leaves office on Jan. 20, homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco said on Friday. Monaco told reporters the results of the report would be shared with lawmakers and others.
National intelligence agencies have indicated strong evidence that Russian state-actors, already implicated in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and in election rolls in some states, intruded into the presidential election – a horrifying attack on American independence and democracy. Donald Trump, the beneficiary of the interference, has dismissed any notion that Russia was involved – particularly since it would have acknowledged that Russia preferred Trump to win – saying in one of the debates that it could just have easily have been a fat lady sitting on her bed. Trump has also refused to sit in on national security briefings. Cybersecurity has been a concern for this administration. Obama issued this statement on the Report of the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
In February of this year, I directed the creation of a nonpartisan Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity, charging it with assessing the current state of cybersecurity in our country and recommending bold, actionable steps that the government, private sector, and the nation as a whole can take to bolster cybersecurity in today’s digital world. Yesterday, the members of the Commission – leaders from industry and academia, many with experience in government – provided their findings and recommendations to me. And earlier today I met with the Commission’s Chair, Tom Donilon, to discuss how we as a country can build on the Commission’s work and enhance our cybersecurity over the coming years. I want to thank the Commission members for their hard work and for their thoughtful and detailed recommendations. I am confident that if we implement the Commission’s recommendations, our economy, critical infrastructure, and national security will be better equipped to thrive in the coming years.
The Commission’s report makes clear that cybersecurity is one of the greatest challenges we face as a nation. That is why I have consistently made cybersecurity a top national security and economic security priority, reflected most recently by the Cybersecurity National Action Plan I announced in February and my 2017 Budget, which called for a more than 35 percent increase in Federal cybersecurity resources.
During my Administration, we have executed a consistent strategy focused on three priorities:
Raising the level of cybersecurity defenses in the public and private sectors;
Deterring and disrupting malicious cyber activity aimed at the United States or its allies; and
Effectively responding to and recovering from cybersecurity incidents when they occur.
To strengthen our cybersecurity defenses across the country, in 2013 we convened experts from industry, academia and civil society to create the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework. As the Commission notes, the Framework has become the gold standard for cybersecurity risk management, and I wholeheartedly support the Commission’s recommendations to expand its usage in the Federal government, the private sector, and abroad. We encouraged the formation of information sharing and analysis organizations, worked with Congress to enact tailored liability protections for private sector entities that share threat information with the government, and took steps to automate information sharing. As the Commission calls for, we launched public campaigns to promote cybersecurity awareness among consumers, including the “Lock Down Your Login” campaign encouraging consumers to better secure their identities online. We have given consumers more tools to secure their financial future by assisting victims of identity theft, improved the government’s payment security, and accelerated the transition to next-generation payment security. We have invested in cybersecurity research and development to lay the groundwork for stronger cyber defenses in the future. And I have clarified the roles and responsibilities of Federal agencies in responding to significant cyber incidents by issuing a new directive codifying eight years of lessons learned from incident response.
To strengthen government cybersecurity, we created the first-ever federal Chief Information Security Officer and drove dramatic improvements in Federal agencies’ use of strong authentication and in critical vulnerability patching. We have pushed to reduce the Federal government’s reliance on legacy technologies, proposing an innovative $3.1 billion fund to modernize costly and vulnerable information technology (IT) systems – a fund that the Commission proposes to expand. We updated the guidance for Federal agency IT management, cybersecurity, and privacy, introducing the kind of coordination that the Commission calls for. Agencies are increasingly centralizing their cybersecurity efforts and relying on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for shared services like vulnerability detection, network discovery and monitoring, intrusion detection and prevention, and cybersecurity assessments of high priority IT systems. Consolidating DHS’ cybersecurity and infrastructure protection missions within a single DHS line agency – as my Administration has proposed, and as the Commission recommends – would further strengthen DHS’ ability to support Federal and critical infrastructure cybersecurity. Finally, consistent with the Commission’s emphasis on improving the Nation’s cybersecurity workforce, my Administration has issued a comprehensive workforce strategy and has hired more than 6,000 new cybersecurity professionals in the Federal government in 2016 alone.
As the Commission recognizes, we have championed the application of international law to cyberspace; promoted voluntary international norms of state behavior during peacetime, securing over 30 countries’ commitment to these norms in the G20 and other international fora; and committed to confidence building measures to reduce escalation risk. We have secured commitments from China and other nations to oppose cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property and business secrets for commercial gain, sought to modernize the Mutual Legal Assistance process, and submitted legislation to enable greater cross-border data sharing between law enforcement agencies – another effort the Commission strongly supports. We have developed additional tools and cyber capabilities to deter and disrupt malicious cyber activity aimed at the United States. Finally, we created the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center to ensure that there is a single government-wide source for integrated intelligence assessments on cyber threats.
In total, the Commission’s recommendations affirm the course that this Administration has laid out, but make clear that there is much more to do and the next Administration, Congress, the private sector, and the general public need to build on this progress. Deepening public-private cooperation will help us better protect critical infrastructure and respond to cyber incidents when they occur. Expanding the use of strong authentication to improve identity management will make all of us more secure online. Increasing investments in research and development will improve the security of products and technologies. Investing in human capital, education, and the productivity of the cybersecurity workforce will ensure that this country’s best and brightest are helping us stay ahead of the cybersecurity curve. Continuing to prioritize and coordinate cybersecurity efforts across the Federal government will ensure that this critical challenge remains a top national security priority. And furthering the promotion of international norms of responsible state behavior will ensure that the global community is able to confront the ever-evolving threats we face.
The Commission’s recommendations are thoughtful and pragmatic. Accordingly, my Administration strongly supports the Commission’s work, and we will take additional action wherever possible to build on the work my Administration has already undertaken and to make progress on its new recommendations before the end of my term. Importantly though, I believe that the next Administration and the next Congress can benefit from the Commission’s insights and should use the Commission’s recommendations as a guide. I have asked the Commission to brief the President-Elect’s Transition Team at their earliest opportunity. Further, we must provide sufficient resources to meet the critical cybersecurity challenges called out in the Commission’s report. Before Congress adjourns for the year, it must act to fully fund the urgent cybersecurity needs that my Administration has identified in my 2017 Budget and elsewhere, investing in areas such as securing Federal information technology systems, protecting critical infrastructure, and investing in our cybersecurity workforce.
As the Commission’s report counsels, we have the opportunity to change the balance further in our favor in cyberspace – but only if we take additional bold action to do so. My Administration has made considerable progress in this regard over the last eight years. Now it is time for the next Administration to take up this charge and ensure that cyberspace can continue to be the driver for prosperity, innovation, and change – both in the United States and around the world.