US outlines government response to major cyber attacks in fresh directive

White House counter-terrorism adviser Monaco introduced a new directive from President Obama that establishes a "clear framework" to coordinate the government's response to cyber attacks. Photograph:( Getty )

Reuters Washington, United States Jul 26, 2016, 02.21 PM (IST)

The Obama administration on Tuesday released a new directive outlining how the US government intends to respond to significant cyber attacks.

The United States will use sanctions against those behind cyber attacks that target transportation systems or the power grid, the White House said on Tuesday, citing Russia and China as increasingly assertive and sophisticated cyber operators.

The sanctions will be used "when the conditions are right and when actions will further US policy," White House counter-terrorism adviser Lisa Monaco said in prepared remarks to a cyber security conference.

Monaco cited an "increasingly diverse and dangerous" global landscape in which Iran has launched denial-of-service attacks on U.S. banks and North Korea has shown it would conduct destructive attacks.

"To put it bluntly, we are in the midst of a revolution of the cyber threat - one that is growing more persistent, more diverse, more frequent and more dangerous every day," she said.The United States is working with other countries to adopt voluntary norms of responsible cyber behaviour and work to reduce malicious activity, she said. At the same time, it will use an executive order authorizing sanctions against those who attack US critical infrastructure.

Monaco introduced a new directive from President Barack Obama that establishes a "clear framework" to coordinate the government's response to cyber incidents.

The directive provides for the first time public guidance on the specific roles different federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security, should play in coordinating efforts to investigate and response to cyber incidents that hit both government and the private sector.

"It will help answer a question heard too often from corporations and citizens alike, 'In the wake of an attack, who do I call for help?'" she said.

The directive includes a five-point scale detailing how it grades the severity of an incident.

A significant cyber incident is defined as one that is likely to result in harm to national security or economic interests, foreign relations, or the public confidence, health safety or civil liberties of the American people, according to a White House fact sheet.