The Obama administration has published a high-level plan to protect U.S. computer networks, saying it considers cyber infrastructure "a strategic asset" and will appoint a cyber adviser who will report directly to the president.
The six-point outline was published Wednesday as part of a paper detailing the new administration's position on homeland security. Also planned is a "safe computing R&D effort" to build the next generation of security features into computers, and plans to fight cyber-espionage and cybercrime by cracking down on "untraceable Internet payment schemes."
The administration also wants to develop standards for securing data and making companies disclose data breaches, something that is governed by a patchwork of state laws at present.
The plan largely reflects a cybersecurity strategy that U.S. President Barack Obama first outlined in a July 16 campaign speech.
"We know that cyber-espionage and common crime is already on the rise. And yet while countries like China have been quick to recognize this change, for the last eight years we have been dragging our feet," Obama said, according to a transcript of the speech. "As President, I'll make cyber security the top priority that it should be in the 21st century."
The administration's plans are generally in line with recommendations put forward last month by a panel of security experts, according to one of the report's advisers, Howard Schmidt, president of the Information Security Forum. That report, written by the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, called for sweeping changes to the way the federal government approaches cybersecurity, including the creation of a new cybersecurity office in the White House.
Talking about computer security as a critical national asset rather than just the technology behind e-commerce shows that the Obama administration has a new approach, said Schmidt, one of the authors of the George W. Bush administration's "Strategy to Secure Cyberspace." "I think that's one thing that's really, really key," he said. "By declaring this a national asset, that's going to put everybody on notice that they've got to start doing their part to strengthen it."