House chairman: Obama order reveals 'piecemeal' cyber plan

President Obama’s executive order authorizing more sanctions on cyberattackers is a small move that doesn’t cover up the lack of a comprehensive plan to countering cyber crooks, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) argued Wednesday.

“While this action to impose sanctions on hackers is an important step, unfortunately it further illustrates the administration's piecemeal approach to confronting these growing cyber threats,” the cyber-focused lawmaker said in a statement.

ADVERTISEMENT
Obama’s Wednesday order grants the Treasury Department more authority to enact sanctions on individuals or entities behind cyberattacks and cyber espionage. Essentially, it allows the department to freeze targets’ assets when they interact with the U.S. financial system.

The move is the White House’s newest item on its 2015 cybersecurity agenda.

In January, Obama released a set of legislative proposals designed to encourage the private sector to share more cyber threat data with the government. He later flew to Silicon Valley for an all-day cyber summit, where he signed an executive order to make it easier for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to receive cyber information from companies.

McCaul has been mostly supportive of these initiatives.

In fact, on April 14 his committee will mark up a major cyber bill that includes major components of the White House’s legislative offering.

The National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act would give companies legal liability protections for sharing cyber threat data with the DHS, an element the president supports.

But McCaul said he has yet to see a satisfactory broader plan from the White House.

“We must have a comprehensive strategy to address our nation's escalating cybersecurity challenges,” he said.

In February, McCaul teamed with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) on a letter to the administration asking for more specifics on its plan to thwart hackers.

The two have yet to hear back, McCaul’s office said Wednesday.

“While I am pleased to see that the president is finally answering our call to provide some type of deterrent and consequence, many questions still remain on the administration's overall strategy and plan to combat cyberattacks,” McCaul said.