The new National Cybersecurity Policy from the Biden Administration holds lofty ideas, but little that is actionable. As reported by The New York Times, the policy, unveiled on March 2, seeks to push greater responsibility for cyber attacks and data breaches toward those who own, operate or use online infrastructure. The policy also outlines a formal strategy for the United States Government to take action against professional cyber criminals and state-sponsored hackers.
With regard to national standards, the new cybersecurity policy is a long-overdue step in the right direction. One of the greatest challenges in convincing organizations to adopt stronger cyber security has been a lack of regulations. In cases where Federal or state governments have mandated security rules, adoption has been swift. Both the Gramm-Leach-Billey Act, which mandates protection of consumer financial data, and the California Consumer Privacy Act, which gives individuals the right to delete their data, as well as the European Union's General Data Protection Act led to widespread changes in the ways businesses of all sizes collected, protected and stored personal data.
Biden's Cybersecurity Policy Is Not Regulation
Many cyber security professionals have argued for national standards for years, yet this is where the Biden National Cybersecurity Policy comes up short. Outside of executive orders that narrowly target some Federal agencies, there is no mechanism to create or enforce mandates. Congress would need to pass legislation outlining standards and penalties for noncompliance. There also remains a question of who would investigate and enforce national guidelines.
Simply setting those guidelines will be difficult, given the ever-changing nature of the Internet and the software that powers it. Internet infrastructure developers have fought standards and regulation on the grounds that mandates deter innovation. A balance must be struck between the needs of a better Internet and a safer one, and any policy that emerges will do well to require a reasonable level of security to exist in new tools and services without stifling innovation solely to deter cyber attacks.
What Does the Policy Mean for Business Owners?
Absent Congressional action to set standards and mandate compliance in the private sector, the new National Cybersecurity Policy has no immediate functional impact on any private or state-operated organization's cyber security. However, this policy, taken with the Federal government's more aggressive stance on common-sense cyber security practices, suggests that more executives could be found liable for cyber security lapses until formal regulations are passed.
The new policy may also embolden cyber insurance underwriters to deny claims if, in their assessment, reasonable care has not been taken to protect systems and data.
This policy is likely to lead to several years of uneven enforcement, insurance denials and court challenges that will ultimately prompt Congress to step in and pass broad-based rules. Until then, business leaders should understand that the burden of preventing cyber attacks continues to shift toward individual organizations. In this environment, good cyber security practices and cyber security employee training are more important, and potentially more cost effective, than they were before.
Subscribe to CommentsComment