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Obama’s Executive Order and Critical Infrastructure Protection

The big news this week in cybersecurity was the Executive Order from President Obama regarding our nation’s critical infrastructure, a catch-all term that includes power plants, water treatment plants and a lot of other utilities and services that, if impeded, could impact our lives in significant ways.

Reading through the text, the Order mainly allows for information exchange between government entities tracking nefarious interests and the private organizations running the critical infrastructure those nefarious interests would aim to sabotage. Certainly, this sharing of data can only help. By learning what the government is hearing, the companies will no doubt be better armed to know where an attack might be coming from.

Perhaps the biggest positive result of the President’s move is that the spotlight is now on the issue of critical infrastructure protection, at least for the time being. And I think it’s easy for anyone to conclude that the executive order does not go nearly far enough in providing guidance or dictating rules so that the infrastructure can be best protected.

Critical infrastructure protection is a complicated beast, made ever the more complicated because of the changing nature of the workplace. As an example, we live in a world that is more and more mobile. Even the U.S. government is encouraging its agencies to support mobile work environments. But a mobile world introduces new attack vectors for those who wish to do harm, let alone the vectors that already exist in our interconnected computing environments.

It can be a daunting challenge to secure these environments. Organizations are being targeted through remote attacks and their employees are also being targeted as travelers so they bring back malicious threats into the organization. As we’ve seen on more than one occasion, employees at many organizations have inadvertently carried malware and other malicious software into their work areas and have accidentally installed that software onto IT infrastructure.

The security industry needs to give organizations an advantage over malicious software.  A comprehensive approach to cybersecurity will address these and other scenarios.

One place to start is where our IronKey solutions sit– providing secure, mobile workspaces that are centrally managed. This allows employees at any company, let alone those operating our critical infrastructure, to work in any environment without risking a security compromise.

Solutions that involve hardware encryption, encryption key management, and strong administrative and access management controls should be incorporated into any government-driven requirements for critical infrastructure IT systems.