Little more than a week after reports of cyber attacks targeted at the Department of Energy, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, President Obama declared in his State of the Union address that these forms of attacks on the nation’s critical infrastructure are rapidly growing and present “real threats to our security and our economy.” Analyses from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) underscore the administration’s growing unease with the vulnerability of critical infrastructure networks. Reported cyber attacks on utility sector control systems rose more than 50 percent in 2012, with the energy and water sectors representing the greatest number of reported attacks among industrial control system networks. With an upward trend in cyber attacks across critical infrastructure sectors, both government-owned and private sector utilities have anticipated the President’s announcement that his administration will spearhead new defensive efforts through an Executive Order titled “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity” (the EO).
Through the EO, signed on February 12, 2013, the President called on the executive branch to take immediate action to better communicate potential cyber threats to the private sector through increased information sharing and to develop a flexible framework for identifying and reducing the risk of cyber attacks on critical U.S. infrastructure. The administration plans to move rapidly, having already released a draft summary of a Request for Information that is to be published in the Federal Register, and has started to develop workshops with the goal of getting a draft voluntary framework together in well under a year.
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