Preparing for the Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity
Federal concerns about malicious cyber campaigns targeting public and private sectors prompted the new Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity, issued in May 2021. An additional White House memo advocates for stronger software supply chain security and the implementation of cybersecurity best practices. These steps all point in the right direction towards better online security.
As public and private sector organizations experience an increasing scale of malicious cyber campaigns, the government is taking action to prevent cybercrimes. President Biden’s Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity stipulates that the federal government must lead by example with a top-to-bottom directive mandating change at all levels of federal operations.
Some of these actions include a review of cloud contract requirements and the development of a federal cybercampaign detection and response strategy.
Federal agencies are also encouraged to implement Zero Trust policies that include 2-Factor Authentication and the encryption of data at rest (sitting in a database) and in transit (being transmitted in an email).
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The Executive Order highlights two major themes: visibility and software supply chain security.
Visibility: Federal agencies must review how Cloud Service Providers share threat data with federal departments. They must also develop policies for “for logging, log retention, and log management, which shall ensure centralized access and visibility for the highest level security operations center of each agency.”
Software supply chain security: Commercially acquired software vendors must demonstrate their ability to resist attacks and prevent tampering by malicious actors. Because many commercial products are built on open source software, the Executive Order advocates for a “Software Bills of Materials” (similar to a list of ingredients on a food product) to further validate commercial software as trustworthy.
Products built on open source software give everyone a chance to review, audit, comment, or contribute to the software’s codebase, which also helps to expedite priority product enhancements. Users also benefit from more cost-effective, transparent, and flexible software. Some software providers offer an additional level of security by conducting third-party security audits and aligning to industry compliance standards such as SOC 2, HIPAA, or Privacy Shield.
A “Software Bill of Materials” serving as a list of trusted software ingredients strengthens software supply chain security and ensures code integrity.
“All organizations must recognize no one is safe from being targeted by ransomware… But there are immediate steps you can take to protect yourself, as well as your customers and the broader economy.”, stated in a memo released within weeks of the Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity.
Whether they serve the federal government or not, private organizations have the power and obligation to harden their security stance on ransomware. The White House memo recommends five best practices to mitigate the risk of a successful cyberattack:
Backup data, system images, and configurations; regularly test backups and keep them offline.
Update and patch operating systems, applications, and firmware promptly using a centralized patch management system.
Test incident response plans to identify gaps and determine if it is possible to maintain operations without access to certain systems.
Take advantage of third-party penetration tests to check the security team's work and the ability to defend against a sophisticated attack.
Separate networks supporting corporate business functions and manufacturing/production operations so one network can continue operating if the other is compromised.
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In addition to the best practices recommended in the White House memo, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has recently released a catalog of risky practices identified in recent cyber-attacks against federal agencies. One entry, the use of known/fixed/default passwords and credentials, can be addressed quickly and easily with a password manager.
Open source password managers like Bitwarden perform password health checks, support 2-Factor Authentication, and empower employees to develop cybersecurity best practices by giving them their own personal password vault.
Employees can better protect passwords from being compromised by:
Choosing stronger passwords
Identifying when passwords have been compromised (or when default passwords need changing)
Using additional credential protections such as 2-Factor Authentication, Single Sign-On, and biometric logins to better protect against ransomware and other cybersecurity threats
Learn how your organization can be more proactive in strengthening ransomware protection by using a password manager.
Take advantage of a Bitwarden Enterprise free trial today.