RICHMOND, Va. – President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday meant to strengthen U.S. cybersecurity defenses in response to a series of headline-grabbing hacking incidents that highlight how vulnerable the country's public and private sectors are to high-tech spies and criminals operating from half a world away.
The order will require all federal agencies to use basic cybersecurity measures, like multi-factor authentication, and require new security standards for software makers that contract with the federal government.
Officials are hoping to leverage the federal government's massive spending power to make widely used software safer for the private sector as well.
Biden's actions come as the administration has been grappling with its response to a massive breach by Russia of federal agencies and ransomware attacks on private corporations.
Biden's order was announced after the nation's largest fuel pipeline restarted operations Wednesday, days after it was forced to shut down by a gang of hackers.
And the U.S. sanctioned the Kremlin last month for a hack of several federal government agencies, known as the SolarWinds breach, that officials have linked to a Russian intelligence unit and characterized as an intelligence-gathering operation. The AP previously reported that Russian hackers gained access to an email account belonging to the Trump administration's acting homeland security secretary, Chad Wolf.
“The United States is simply not prepared to fend off state-sponsored or even criminal hackers intent on compromising our systems for profit or espionage,” Sen. Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.