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President Trump Revokes U.S. Cyber Offense Rules

Can the U.S. blunt cyberattacks launched by foreign adversaries with quicker counter-offensives or even preemptive strikes? Perhaps we’re going to find out.

President Trump has reversed an existing Obama-era mandate that required multi-agency buy-in ahead of retaliatory cyber strikes, the Wall Street Journal reported. Under the 2012 classified regulation, known as Presidential Policy Directive 20, multiple stakeholders had to sign off on a cyber operation before it could be launched against the country’s digital foes.

Michael Daniel, a former White House cybersecurity coordinator, reportedly told the WSJ that the former framework ensured that the feds considered “appropriate equities” ahead of launching cyber offensives. But critics said the excessive bureaucracy procedure slowed the response to a cyber attack.

President Trump’s Cyber Attack Policy: Fast Counter Punches?

Trump’s order is intended to enable the country to rapidly deliver a harsh reply should a nation-state again interfere in the country’s elections or to free up a military response, an official told the WSJ. National security advisor John Bolton is said to have urged Trump to hobble the earlier rules.

On the other hand, what’s to replace the scuttled former directive? After all, it’s one thing to dispense with an existing roadmap, it’s quite another to establish a new set of policies that stipulate a new level of agency involvement before a cyber attack is in motion. So far, we have the former but not the latter. Unless, of course, the president’s intention is that U.S.-launched cyber attacks need not be approved by government agencies.

Meanwhile, Chinese hackers in May and June reportedly scanned business and government websites in Alaska looking for security vulnerabilities. The cyber reconnaisance took place before and after governor Bill Walker’s trade mission to China in May. Recorded Future security researchers traced the break-in to hackers working out of China’s Tsinghua University, Reuters reported. Another scan of the Alaskan government websites occurred one day after Walker said he planned to discuss in Washington the potential economic damage from the trade dispute between the U.S. and China.

“The network reconnaissance activity against Alaskan organizations increased following the governor of Alaska’s trade delegation trip to China in late May. Organizations targeted by the reconnaissance activity were in industries at the heart of the trade discussions, such as oil and gas,” Recorded Future said.

“This is baseless. I’ve never heard of this, so I have no way to give a response,” a Tsinghua University official told Reuters. Recorded Future reportedly has provided a copy of its report to U.S. law enforcement agencies.

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