President Donald Trump has reportedly removed restraints on how and when the US can launch cyberattacks on its adversaries — and it could make attacks on other countries more likely.
Trump signed an order Aug. 15, 2018, reversing a series of Obama-era rules, which outlined a process of interagency approval before the US could launch cyberoffensives, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.
The Journal said one administration official briefed on the decision described the change as an “offensive step forward.” The change is meant to support military operations and deter foreign interference in US elections. The Trump administration is under pressure to show it is taking threats of foreign interference seriously in light of mounting evidence that Russia meddled in the 2016 US election.
The Obama-era rules, known as Presidential Policy Directive 20, meant agencies that wanted to launch a cyberattack had to gain approval from groups across the federal government. This was to ensure that existing defense operations were not harmed by the launch of a new attack.
Former President Barack Obama.
Michael Daniel, who served as the White House’s cybersecurity coordinator under President Barack Obama, said the change could do more harm than good. “You could end up having an operation wreck a carefully crafted multiyear espionage operation to gain access to a foreign computer system,” he told The Journal.
The new policy applies to the Defense Department as well as other federal agencies, an administration official told The Journal. The person declined to say which other agencies would be affected.
Sources did not tell The Journal which rules were replacing the Obama-era directive, citing the classified nature of the process; as The Journal pointed out, the Obama-era rules were classified as well and were made public only in the 2013 Edward Snowden leaks.
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