Inside Cybersecurity

December 7, 2021

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The Weekly Analysis

Botnet report release will highlight anniversary of Trump executive order

By Charlie Mitchell / May 7, 2018

The one-year anniversary of President Trump's executive order on cybersecurity lands on Friday and the policy highlight is likely to be release of an anxiously awaited report on combating botnet attacks, which could launch a new stakeholder process on this increasingly dangerous threat.

“The botnet report is on track for release on Friday and will build on comments submitted on the draft,” said a source familiar with the administration process surrounding the report. “There will be additional language on next steps and it will acknowledge some of the things said by industry. It's pretty detailed.”

The botnet report to the president is a joint endeavor of the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology and National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The draft was released early this year for public comment.

A key element of the report, the source said, will be a “move toward a new stakeholder” process to address botnet threats. “It will be a holistic approach and industry is an important player.”

The report “documents pretty well the scope of the problem,” the source said, while stressing that “we don't want to throttle innovation.”

The stakeholder language was still being tinkered with late last week, the source said.

But several sources said the government-private sector process may resemble the effort that went into developing NIST's framework of cybersecurity standards, perhaps on a smaller scale because the NIST framework process was aimed at a broader swath of industries and interests.

“It’s my understanding that the goals and action items in the report will be essentially the same as the January draft, but with deeper context and discussion underlying them -- describing the different components of internet infrastructure,” said a former senior cyber official in the Obama administration. “And ... I would expect pretty robust next steps."

A source from the telecom sector commented to Inside Cybersecurity: “With over 20 recommendations in the draft January 5th report for government and industry engagement, there is an obvious need to rationalize these efforts from a human resource and timing perspective. We would hope the report provides some mechanism by which government and industry can engage in a transparent conversation regarding the multitude of initiatives, and the best way to organize these efforts across industry, government and international jurisdictions. While all of these initiatives are important, to execute them effectively will require close collaboration and the assignment of top government and industry expertise."

Overall, the former Obama official said, “This has been a year of significant industry activity to address ecosystem-wide challenges -- similar to the activity in 2013 driven by the Cybersecurity Framework process that was focused on enterprise risk management. I think the work over the past year will pay big dividends for botnet reduction and other cybersecurity interests as the advances of this past year are implemented. This is the way cybersecurity policymaking should work."

Another source -- a former Department of Homeland Security official -- said a public-private engagement on the botnet issue could also provide an important forum for raising awareness of the botnet threat throughout the business community.

“Botnets empower bad guys to target vulnerabilities wherever and whenever,” the source said. “Hacking has become automated so you can't hide behind 'it won't happen to me.' No one's business is immune.”

The source added, “An awareness campaign related to this would be very welcome."

The May 11, 2017 executive order also required federal agencies to use the NIST framework, among other elements.

The White House declined to comment on plans for Friday with a spokesman saying, “All that we will have to share will be available on May 11."

Sources have suggested that the anniversary could provide an opportunity for the White House to present its strategic view on cybersecurity, including on global engagement and deterrence. -- Charlie Mitchell (cmitchell@iwpnews.com)