State not planning to update cyber strategy

State not planning to update cyber strategy
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The State Department is not planning to update its 2011 international cyberspace strategy, Christopher Painter, the agency’s coordinator for cyber issues, told senators Thursday.

As other agencies such as the White House and Pentagon update their security documents to account for the rapidly shifting cyber landscape, State is holding firm that its document effectively guides the department.


Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSenate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law Frustrated GOP senators want answers from Trump on Iran Graham: Trump officials not adequately briefing on Iran threat MORE (R-Colo.), chairman of the Foreign Relations cybersecurity subcommittee holding the hearing, asked Painter if State was considering “doing some kind of review” of the four-year-old document, given the rising cyber threat from countries including China and North Korea.

The government has accused China of conducting an extensive campaign to digitally pilfer U.S. intellectual property. The White House also blamed North Korea for last fall’s destructive cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment.

“Do you believe that’s necessary?” Gardner asked.

“I don’t think that strategy needs to be rewritten or updated,” Painter said. “We want to make sure we’re actually executing on this strategy.”

Painter explained that the international cyberspace strategy “was really a high-level document” meant to lay out goals for the agency.

“We’ve been spending the last number of years implementing this strategy,” he said. “We’ve been making some significant progress.”

Painted ticked off a few accomplishments:

The State Department helped drive the United Nations in 2013 to agree that international law applies in cyberspace.  

It has worked to get more countries to sign onto the decade-old Budapest Convention on Cybercrime.

At the 2014 NetMundial conference on Internet governance, the agency “fended off attempts” to give the U.N. and foreign governments control over the worldwide Internet.

Painter also mentioned his department’s work on international development in places such as Africa to try to "bring other counties up to speed, because the weakest link hurts us as well as them.”

“Across the board, if you look at those categories, there’s been a lot of work by us,” he added.

In recent months, other government agencies have decided to reissue fundamental security documents that hadn’t been updated since President Obama’s reelection.

The White House released a new National Security Strategy in February. The document departed from its 2010 predecessor by explicitly calling out China for hacking the U.S. private sector and state that the government will defend private networks against the Asian power’s intrusions.

The Pentagon also issued a new cybersecurity strategy in April, its first since 2011. It included an unprecedented focus on offensive cyber weapons and included an entire section on China’s ongoing cyber espionage and digital theft of intellectual property.

Painter believes the State Department is better served by focusing on the goals laid out in its 2011 document.

“I don’t think we need to write a new strategy at this point,” he said.