NEW YORK - President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at modernizing and improving the nation's computer networks as he continues to fend off critics of his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, who was leading an investigation into alleged Russian hacking in the 2016 election and possible ties to Trump associates.
The order is president's first major action toward what he called a "top priority" of his administration. The goal is to protect federal networks. It includes new guidelines for centralizing government agencies and establishing a response strategy in the case of a cyber attack.
"The United States invented the internet and it's time to maintain our values on it," White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said.
The long-awaited order came after the presidential campaign and the Trump administration continue to be overshadowed by reports of suspected Russian-backed hacking. Before Comey was fired, he testified on Capitol Hill last week that Russia is still trying to hack into U.S. networks.
"Russians are not our only adversaries on the internet and the Russians are not the only people that operate in a negative way on the internet," Bossert said. "The Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, other nation-states are motivated to use cyber capacity and cyber tools to attack our people and our governments and their data."
Lawmakers are urging the Trump administration to follow up on a self-imposed 90-day deadline to create an anti-hacking plan.
This order is also supposed to better protect critical infrastructure like the energy grid and the financial sector. National security experts fear a significant cyber-attack could cripple the U.S. economy.
Executive Order: Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure
"Our nation's economic and national security rely on a safe, secure, and reliable cyber space. DHS has long been a leader in protecting our nation against cyber threats and this executive order reaffirms our central role in ongoing cybersecurity efforts," Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said in a statement. "We have developed strong operational relationships with our government partners to protect federal civilian networks and have established trusted partnerships with the private sector to improve the cybersecurity of the nation’s critical infrastructure."