White House nears completion of cybersecurity executive order

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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The White House is close to completing the draft of an cybersecurity executive order, continuing its pursuit of expanding executive branch authority over the Internet.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said during a Senate hearing Wednesday that the order is still being drafted and circulated to relevant agencies for final approval.

The White House first openly entertained the idea of a cybersecurity executive order in early August.

While President Barack Obama still needs to approve the order, Napolitano told senators Wednesday that the order is now “close to completion.”

It is believed to closely mirror the failed cybersecurity bill sponsored by independent Sen. Joe Lieberman and Republican Sen. Susan Collins.

The bill, the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, was aimed at strengthening the nation’s cybersecurity standards for networks and companies that dealt with the nation’s electrical, water and transportation systems.

While the bill stated that it would create a voluntary process by which companies could participate in creating cybersecurity standards for their particular industry, the process prescribed was less than voluntary.

The bill would have given federal agencies in charge of regulating critical infrastructure industries, like power companies and utilities, the ability to mandate cybersecurity recommendations.

Obama, in defense of that particular bill, penned an op-ed that painted a picture of mass catastrophe should the federal government not enact cybersecurity legislation.

The bill was crafted closely through the efforts of several working groups in cooperation with the White House.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid sparked a firestorm and a stern rebuke from Republican Sen. John McCain for prioritizing the passage of cybersecurity legislation instead of the annual Senate defense budget.

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