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White House To Encourage Adoption Of Digital Defenses

Proposals stem from a February executive order for NIST to develop a voluntary framework with industry

by Glenn Hess
August 16, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 33

The White House says it may offer legal protections, less expensive insurance, and other incentives to encourage companies that own or operate “critical infrastructure”—including chemical plants, electric grids, and water systems—to join an evolving national cybersecurity program.

The inducements stem from an executive order President Barack Obama issued in February. That order calls for the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) to work with industry to create a voluntary set of cybersecurity best practices to help safeguard critical computer systems from crippling hacker attacks.

NIST is required to produce a draft cybersecurity framework by October and publish a final version by February 2014 (C&EN, March 18, page 8).

The American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group, says it is encouraged that the White House “has recognized the important role that incentives can play in meeting the overall goals of the cybersecurity executive order.”

To prod companies into adopting the completed framework, the White House is proposing to collaborate with the insurance industry in offering risk-based pricing for cybersecurity protection policies and to seek legislation that would shield companies from breach-of-privacy lawsuits in the event they share customer data and other sensitive information with government agencies.

Other possible incentives include providing rapid technical assistance and other government services to companies that put cyber protections in place. The Administration says it will decide which options to adopt within a few months.


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