Sen. Warner to Propose National Cybersecurity Doctrine

Russian election interference puts exclamation point on need for holistic approach
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Sen. Mark Warner

Sen. Mark Warner

WASHINGTON — Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) plans to call for a new U.S. "cyber doctrine" in what is being billed as a "major address" Friday (Dec. 7).

Warner will be speaking at the aptly named Center for a New American Security on a day that marks a damaging surprise attack on the nation's defenses (Pearl Harbor).

As vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Warner has been a leading figure in the Russian election-influence investigation and a strong voice for stronger defenses against cyberattacks and hacks. He is now putting that into a call for concerted action, or what his office calls a "'whole-of-society' doctrine to respond to the cyber and misinformation threats facing our nation."

Warner has been particularly concerned about Russian election-meddling and disinformation campaigns.

Warner's office outlined what is clearly the chief motivation for the call to arms: "Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, relying on a hybrid strategy of conventional cyber-theft, weaponized leaks, and wide-scale social media disinformation, marked a turning point in how we understand the threat landscape. And these active measures have continued well past the 2016 election," it said in an email. The senator says it is time for the country to turn to meet that threat head on by developing "a clear and explicit plan for responding to any future attacks."

But he has also been tracking with concern the major data breach affecting consumer online info.

Following Marriott's revelation of a huge, years-long, data breach, Warner said last week: “It seems like every other day we learn about a new mega-breach affecting the personal data of millions of Americans. Rather than accepting this trend as the new normal, this latest incident should strengthen Congress’ resolve. We must pass laws that require data minimization, ensuring companies do not keep sensitive data that they no longer need. And it is past time we enact data security laws that ensure companies account for security costs rather than making their consumers shoulder the burden and harms resulting from these lapses.”

Back in September, National Security Adviser John Bolton said that given that the U.S. is under attack daily from cyberspace, including attempts to "undermine democracy," the U.S. would now use offensive as well as defensive cyber strategies to counter that threat, though he would not said exactly what that offense would entail.

That came as the Trump Administration unveiled its own National Cyber Strategy whose keys are:

  • "Defend the homeland by protecting networks, systems, functions, and data;
  • "Promote American prosperity by nurturing a secure, thriving digital economy and fostering strong domestic innovation;
  • "Preserve peace and security by strengthening the ability of the United States in concert with allies and partners — to deter and, if necessary, punish those who use cyber tools for malicious purposes; and
  • "Expand American influence abroad to extend the key tenets of an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure Internet."

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