Biden calls cybersecurity ‘core national security challenge’ in meeting with tech, education and critical infrastructure leaders
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Biden calls cybersecurity ‘core national security challenge’ in meeting with tech, education and critical infrastructure leaders

President Joe Biden called cybersecurity a “core national security challenge” in a meeting with leaders from Silicon Valley, the water and energy sectors, the banking and insurance industries and academic institutions on Wednesday to discuss shoring up the nation’s cybersecurity.

“We’ve seen time and again how the technologies we rely on from our cell phones to pipelines, the electric grid can become targets of hackers and criminals,” Biden said in opening remarks.

The summit — involving nearly three dozen participants — marked the Biden administration’s most visible engagement yet with private sector executives following a wave of ransomware and other cyberattacks targeting US businesses and critical infrastructure operators this year.

The meeting was set to culminate in several announcements by both the US government and the private organizations, according to a senior administration official. The official declined to preview specifics of the announcements but emphasized there will be concrete steps taken to bolster the country against cyberattack. A key area of focus, the official said, is the shortage of cybersecurity talent in the United States that has led to half a million unfilled jobs in the industry.

Other announcements, the official added, will focus on enhancing the basic security of technology products so that the tech industry is not “pushing the cost of maintaining security to the users,” and still other announcements could seek to flesh out the administration’s recent progress on securing critical infrastructure with tools that can detect cyberattacks in real time.

The Biden administration has grappled with the limits of its authority to answer the rise in cyberattacks, a problem that affects a broad range of businesses the White House cannot directly regulate.

While the US government has rolled out mandatory data breach reporting requirements for certain sectors such as pipelines, and is increasingly using its procurement power to shape the cybersecurity practices of federal contractors, officials and experts say the White House lacks the authority to order more stringent measures like the use of two-factor authentication in private networks.

As a result, the Biden administration has tried to encourage private industry to take action voluntarily in defense of US networks.

Wednesday’s summit reflects the latest in that strategy. Participants in the meeting were scheduled to speak Biden before separating into breakout groups led by Cabinet officials including DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman. Other participating government leaders will include National Cyber Director Chris Inglis, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, deputy national security adviser Anne Neuberger, CISA Director Jen Easterly, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and Office of Public Engagement Director Cedric Richmond

The three breakout sessions were focused on critical infrastructure resilience; cybersecurity talent and workforce issues; and building stronger technology and insurance solutions.

This story and headline have been updated with remarks from Biden.

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