In an announcement today, President Obama unveiled his new policy for handling “cyber incidents.” It’s different from Future President Trump’s opinions on “the cybers,” mostly because there’s some actual plans in there.
Most notably, the confusing turf war over which agency gets to do what has been sorted out. Moving forwards, the FBI will be the lead agency responding to any “cyber incidents.”
The move is a slight change from the status quo. The FBI has long dealt with “cyber incidents” concerning hackers or attacks against lone companies, but the intelligence agencies have been the behind-the-scenes leads on attacks from other governments.
The new policy changes all that. The FBI is now responsible for “threat response activities,” while the Department for Homeland Security is responsible for “asset response activities” — attacks against the power grid or similar. The intelligence community is moved to a backup role, providing “intelligence support and related activities.”
This doesn’t mean that the NSA has nothing to do with cyber warfare any more — it just means that the FBI is ultimately responsible for investigating any attacks and coordinating a response.
The new federal policy has been much-needed for a long time. The likely Russian-conducted hack on the DNC that’s causing turmoil around the Democratic convention proves how real the threat of hacking is. There’s plenty of government talent capable of helping prevent those attacks in the future; coordinating the response is the real trick. Obama’s new policy goes a long way towards helping.