US government rolls out doomsday plan for cyberwar

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(Reuters) – A government report published on Wednesday outlines a cyberwar doomsday plan and recommends Washington make sweeping changes to address other cybersecurity challenges facing the country.

The report, authored by a US government-funded bipartisan group, named the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, advises that Congress pass a series of bills to create new or reorganize existing government offices to improve the nation’s cyber defenses. It also offers other initiatives that the authors say could bring foreign allies and private sector partners closer to the US government on cybersecurity efforts.

“The idea with nuclear deterrence is you’ve either deterred it or you haven’t,” Suzanne Spaulding, a commission member and former senior homeland security official, said about the report’s findings last week at a D.C. event.

“With cyber you’re trying to reduce the level of malicious cyber activity. This is not going to be ‘we’re going to eliminate cyber.’ This is about mitigating the consequence and reducing the level of activity.”

Among the group’s recommendations are a set of proposals that could set in motion the creation of a new “National Cyber Director” at the White House, a strengthened military cyber reserve force, and a unique State Department bureau for cyber issues.

Since 2015, large-scale cyberattacks, such as the so-called WannaCry ransomware outbreak, have crippled hospitals, government offices and other infrastructure providers. These types of incidents led the commission to design contingency plans to prepare for a large-scale cyber conflict with Russia, China or others.

The plan says the government must prioritize keeping the economy online, ensuring the flow of goods and services, nationally, according to a draft report reviewed by Reuters.

“This is an area that the commission really focused on,” Samantha Ravich, another commission member, said at the same event about the contingency strategy. “(It) has to be planned before, you can’t do it when the lights go out.”

The commission was originally launched in 2019 through funding provided by last year’s annual defense budget. Maine Senator Angus King and Wisconsin Representative Mike Gallagher chaired the group, which included representation from the executive branch, Congress, the intelligence community, law enforcement and the private sector.

(Reporting by Christopher Bing; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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