Understanding the Cybersecurity Executive Order

On May 12, 2021, after the SolarWinds incident, President Biden signed into action a cybersecurity Executive Order (EO) that put into practice more sophisticated methods of combating costly cyberattacks.

Network security engineers in the government and private sector immediately recognized the EO as a beneficial step to improve security standards across the board and remove barriers between the government and private industries regarding cyberthreats and data breaches.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

The NIST, founded in 1901, was originally designed to improve competitiveness in American industries. Today, it’s tasked with creating and upholding standards for industries across the nation. The EO tasked multiple agencies, including the NIST, with enhancing the security of the software supply chain.

Section 4 directs the NIST to gather advice from businesses across several industries, both government and private industries, to enhance cybersecurity for businesses across Alabama and the nation with:

  • New security standards
  • Cutting-edge cybersecurity tools
  • Best practices
  • Other guidelines

Details of the Executive Order

There are several key details of the new cybersecurity executive order that small and medium sized businesses in Alabama should know about.

  • Remove communication barriers between government and private industries

    For privacy reasons, providers are often leery about sharing information relating to security threats and data breaches, or because of contractual obligations, unable to share information. The EO makes expectations in cases where threats could affect government networks, ensuring classified information remains secure.
  • Enhance security of software supply chain

    Like the data breach that sparked the need for a cybersecurity executive order, supply chain attacks are becoming more common. This isn’t to say you should stop your focus on security awareness training, or endpoint vulnerabilities, but understanding current security standards and ensuring vendors are compliant will ensure a secure network.
  • Creates a new cybersecurity safety board

    Co-led by private sector and government officials, a new cybersecurity board was created to analyze each significant security breach. The board will study each breach learning how it happened, where it came from, and devise new methods for ensuring a similar breach can’t happen.

    It’s the hope of the new board to de-stigmatize cyberattacks as embarrassing or shameful, so new discussions can be opened about the attack where industries across the board learn from the mistakes of others, and new guidelines can be set to mitigate risk of another attack.
  • Adoption of “Zero-Trust” standards

    Although industries should already have a zero trust architecture in place in the form of adequate firewalls, this isn’t always the case for small and medium sized businesses.

    A full security network to implement, support, and maintain is expensive, but with the support of service providers, even small and medium businesses should be able to benefit from a zero-trust network.

    The zero-trust architecture would need to be carefully maintained to ensure there are no typos, classification challenges, or configuration errors that could lead to weaknesses and a potential data breach.
  • A standard procedure for incident response

    Many companies have their own policies and procedures for dealing with a breach which can still leave a business scrambling to figure out how to move forward post-attack.

    The cybersecurity executive order removes the guesswork by establishing a standard set of operating procedures that, while not mandatory for private sector companies, is still available to assist with the incident response across the nation.
  • New endpoint detection and response system

    Cybersecurity across industry is slow at best, and inconsistent leaving companies open to possible attacks. The new Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) system gives better opportunities to spot malevolent activities like ransomware attacks before a breach can happen, and makes it easier to share data across agencies.
  • Requirements for event logs

    Before the cybersecurity executive order, response to cyberattacks was all over the board, with no set standards or regulations to log events. The new EO mandates that agencies consistently log each event for analysis that will be used to detect new threats, impede attacks, minimize the impact of a breach, and identify trends across multiple incidents.

What This Means for Your Business

Although the cybersecurity executive order mostly impacts government agencies and vendors who have contracts with the government, it should be noted that these new procedures can greatly mitigate the risk of attacks for small and medium businesses in Alabama.

Small and medium sized companies are some of the most vulnerable organizations to costly and devastating cyberattacks. Although most large enterprises, or conglomerates can yield a high profit for criminals, it also takes longer to breach their network.

Not all small and medium sized businesses in Alabama have adequate security protecting the network. Although critical data for these companies might not be held for billions of dollars, any type of ransom can have devastating effects on your business.

Partnering with a service provider like BIZFORCE can ensure your company has proper security protections to keep unwanted visitors out of your network.

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