The White House is drafting a preliminary executive order aimed at strengthening its network against a cyber attack.
According to the Washington Post, the draft order would create voluntary standards to guide companies in guarding themselves against cyber attacks and would also establish a council made up of key government agencies to identify threats that could compromise critical sectors.
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the administration was not going to discuss details of internal deliberations 'but an Executive Order is among the things we're considering to fulfil the president's direction to us to do absolutely everything we can to better protect our nation against today's cyber threats'.
The four-page draft order, whose contents were described to The Washington Post by several officials this week, is in the early stages, yet completion could take months, officials said.
Under the draft, an inter agency Cyber Security Council would be led by the Department of Homeland Security and it would have representatives from the commerce, defence, treasury, energy and justice departments, as well as from the director of National Intelligence's Office.
The council would take intelligence on cyber threats and translate it into guidance that would be used to develop security standards. The standards, along with best practices, would be written by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, an arm of the Commerce Department, in collaboration with the private sector. Companies would determine what technologies to use to improve cyber security.
John O. Brennan, President Obama's top adviser on homeland security and counter terrorism, said last month that an executive order was a good vehicle to make sure 'the nation is protected'. He said: “If the Congress is not going to act on something like this, then the president wants to make sure that we're doing everything possible.”
In April, then White House cyber security co-ordinator Howard Schmidt announced that action on botnets would be a priority and that there had been 'a lot of discussion about botnets' in trying to identify how many are out there, what they are doing, what they could do and what the impact could be. A working group was established in March, yet Schmidt announced in May that he was retiring from his position. He later joined the board of directors at Qualys.
Last week, the UK government announced plans for GCHQ to educate UK businesses on cyber threats, with GCHQ employed to teach private industry to create a more security-conscious culture.