US President Obama proposes $19bn plan to overhaul US cybersecurity

9 Feb 2016

US President Barack Obama has made cybersecurity a national security priority

US President Barack Obama has revealed plans to provide $19bn in funding to counter cybersecurity threats against the US.

The move comes just days after it emerged Homeland Security and the FBI were apparently hacked at the weekend while most Americans were enjoying the Super Bowl. The attacks were the latest in a litany of attacks on US government agencies, which in the last year alone has seen emails belonging to the director of the CIA leaked, details of millions of US government workers stolen and hackers potentially getting away with $50m after infiltrating the IRS’ systems.

It also follows high-profile attacks on the systems of Sony Pictures, Anthem and Target.

President Obama, in his fiscal 2017 budget proposal, asked for $19bn for cybersecurity safety across the US government, up $5bn from the 2016 figure.

‘As long as I’m president, protecting America’s digital infrastructure is going to remain a top national-security priority’

This will include $3.1bn allotted for technology modernisation at various federal agencies.

It also includes $62m for programmes to address the dire shortage of cybersecurity professionals, including a CyberCorps Reserve programme that will give students cybersecurity scholarships in exchange for several years of government service.

The proposals by Obama include the formation of a new position – the Federal Chief Information Security Officer – as well as proposals to help Americans move beyond passwords to two-factor authentication and fingerprint recognition.

“As fast as our connected world is evolving, it is worth remembering that we’re still in the early days of this challenge,” Obama said in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.

“The first web page came online in 1990. We’re only in the third decade of the internet age, and I believe we’ve only just scratched the surface of what’s possible – if we protect the innovation and privacy that we cherish as Americans.

“These cyber threats are a national-security risk few of my predecessors faced, but they will be ones my successors, regardless of party, must address. As long as I’m president, protecting America’s digital infrastructure is going to remain a top national-security priority. We won’t resolve all these challenges over the coming year, but we’re laying a strong foundation for the future. By taking these steps together, I’m confident we can unleash the full potential of American innovation, and ensure our prosperity and security online for the generations to come,” Obama wrote.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years