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Trump just signed an executive order for a full review of the country’s digital defenses

The new effort orders a host of studies and seeks the tech industry’s help.

President Trump Meets with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin at Treasury Department Shawn Thew - Pool/Getty Images

Hoping to battle back attacks from foreign countries and rogue hackers alike, President Donald Trump on Thursday commissioned a full review of the country’s digital defenses — and began the process of soliciting the tech industry’s cyber security expertise.

In a wide-ranging executive order signed earlier this afternoon, Trump prescribed a host of studies: He wants to take a closer look at the way government spends money on computers and technologies, for example, while putting in place new policies to deter the likes of China or Russia from launching a major cyber attack against the United States.

With it, though, Trump also tasked his government to work alongside tech and telecom giants and other companies to figure out ways to “improve the resilience of the internet and communications ecosystem,” particularly to guard against botnets and denial-of-service attacks. Together, they’ll work to produce a report due next year.

Trump’s long-awaited executive order comes months after he pledged at Trump Tower that he would craft a cyber security strategy 90 days after taking office. But the president ultimately blew that deadline, a misstep that generated immense criticism given that Trump had discussed hacking so much on the campaign trail — usually in the context of blasting China, the Obama administration or Hillary Clinton, whose emails had been exposed by hackers.

Politics aside, however, there’s still great concern in Washington that the country has failed to safeguard its computers and networks — including classified information — from theft. Many grew especially fearful in 2015, after Chinese hackers breached the Office of Personnel Management — essentially, the government’s HR department — in an attack that affected roughly 21.5 million workers.

To that end, Trump pledged in his order Thursday that he would “hold heads of executive departments and agencies ... accountable for managing cyber security risk to their enterprise.”

In recent years, the government has tried to improve its cyber security posture. Congress has sought to boost federal spending on cyber security, for example, while making it easier for companies to share information about emerging digital threats. And former President Barack Obama commissioned a number of efforts over his two terms to harden the government’s digital defenses, including improving the cyber security of critical infrastructure, like power plants and water pumps, from potential attacks.

Trump’s order builds on that work. It orders a review to determine the effects of a “prolonged power outage associated with a significant cyber incident,” and what can be done to address it, and it explores the cyber security of the Defense Department and the way it addresses threats to its supply chain.

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