Trump’s cyber deterrence looks a lot like Obama’s

The Trump administration’s approach to deterrence in cyberspace and ensuring a safe and secure internet strikes a similar tone with the previous administration.

During a keynote presentation at the GovProtect 17 summit in Washington on Wednesday, Rob Joyce, the White House cybersecurity coordinator, provided greater context to the cybersecurity executive order signed by President Trump in May.

The third big pillar of this order, Joyce explained, involves deterrence and international relations.

Not every nation shares America’s values, he noted, or has the same considerations of what is needed for a secure internet.

“This third pillar is really all about understanding what are the levels of deterrence we have in the U.S. government,” Joyce said, adding that along with deterrence, the government must have ways to hold malicious actors accountable to inflict costs for those acting outside of those norms.

Joyce said this will be a “multifold” approach, involving everything from diplomatic agreements with like-minded countries to apply pressure, to more aggressive cost impositions of sanctions so that the Justice Department can issue indictments, which he said have been used quite successfully.

There are options outside of cyberspace, presumably conventional military actions, though he did not elaborate. “It will be a portfolio of capabilities we bring to do that deterrence,” he added.

Officials of the former Obama administration described similar approaches, typically using the phrase ” whole-of-government approach.” This included:

  • The State Department’s use of tight relationships with foreign governments to coordinate policy responses.
  • The DOJ’s and the FBI’s use of their investigative, prosecutorial, and law enforcement capabilities and authorities.
  • The Department of Homeland Security’s utilization of its critical-infrastructure knowledge and relationships with the private sector to protect these assets, mitigate threats and respond to cyberattacks.
  • The Secret Service’s utilization of its expertise in cyber fraud investigations with potential national implications.
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement and DHS’ investigation into cybercrime as it relates to online theft of intellectual property, export-controlled data as well as other cyber-related crimes such as child exploitation, smuggling and underground marketplaces.
  • The economic agencies such as the Department of Commerce, the Department of the Treasury and the Office of the United States Trade Representative to leverage their understanding of economic and market forces and use of their authorities to issue economic sanctions against individuals or organizations, or enforce trade laws.
  • Sector-specific agencies — using their unique insight into the sectors of the economy that could be threatened by a cyber incident — can complement those of the intelligence community and the Department of Defense to identify, mitigate and defend against cyber incidents.

“In the end we are very much focused on keeping the internet a secure place that, in the end [if] you think about it, we, as the U.S., developed and gave the world the internet,” Joyce said. “It is really important that we are good stewards and continue to make sure that the internet reflects our values going forward. We will put a lot of energy in that space.”