Why the White House Wants to Spend $19 Billion on Cyber-Security
President Obama has earmarked $19 billion to fund his Cybersecurity National Action Plan to improve cyber-security. Here are some of the key components of the plan.

The President Wants to Stem the Rising Tide of Cyber-Attacks
President Obama argues in his Cybersecurity National Action Plan that implementing it is critical to national security. In a statement, the White House said “criminals, terrorists, and countries that wish to do us harm” have increasingly discovered that one of the best ways to attack the U.S. is online. And as witnessed in recent years, those online attacks are only increasing in frequency and severity.

What the Commission on Enhancing National Security Will Do
One part of the cyber-security plan is to establish what the president is calling the Commission on Enhancing National Security. That commission will be established this year and will include “top strategic, business, and technical thinkers.” Commission members will come from outside government and provide recommendations to the administration on how to improve cyber-security and develop best practices to enhance “public safety.”

The Government Must Modernize Its IT Systems
As recent hacks on government agencies clearly show, modernizing networks to safeguard against attacks is exceedingly important. Realizing that, the plan includes a $3.1 billion IT Modernization Fund that would be used to buy new hardware, software and other platforms to enhance the government’s security. President Obama also hopes to use those funds to hire a new federal chief information security officer (CISO) to lead that effort.

It’s Time to Partner With Companies
The president seems resigned to the reality that he cannot achieve his strategic goals without getting help from the private sector. So the plan includes working with some of the technology industry’s biggest companies, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft, to enhance security for American citizens.

Obama Endorses Two-Factor Authentication
In a further effort to help Americans improve their individual privacy and security, the plan calls for an educational component that would remind folks to use enhanced security techniques, including two-factor authentication. President Obama believes that the more secure users keep their data, the safer we all are.

A Federal Privacy Council Will Protect Citizens’ Data
The plan also calls for the establishment of another body, known as the Federal Privacy Council. That council, established through an executive order signed on Feb. 9, will be an “interagency forum” to enhance the government’s own handling of citizen information, so it’s not stolen by hackers. The council will be composed of senior officials at many federal agencies, and its sole purpose will be to institute policies across the government that will safeguard any citizen information that flows through federal computer systems.

The Plan Calls for Critical Infrastructure Stress Tests
To address concerns about attacks on critical infrastructure, like electric grids, the government will work with companies to conduct ongoing tests to analyze and maximize their security. In fact, the president’s plan will build a National Center for Cybersecurity Resilience, where companies will be able to test system security in a secure environment. The White House says it envisions the Center “subjecting a replica electric grid to cyber-attack” to see how the grid might respond to a real attack.

Cyber-Criminals Are a High-Priority Target
The cyber-security plan targets cyber-criminals in several ways. For one, the plan calls for a 23 percent increase in funding for law enforcement to combat cyber-criminals. In addition, the administration is building a governmental Cyber Mission Force that will be fully operational with 6,200 enforcement officials by 2018. To combat cyber-criminals living overseas, the U.S. is also working with allies to more easily take on hackers and other so-called “bad actors.”

The Government Wants to Improve Cyber-Incident Response
In response to ongoing hacking activity, the White House plans to publicly release this spring a policy for national cyber-incident coordination. While details are slim, the policy will include a scale for a hack’s severity and aim at improving the communication between federal agencies and companies whenever an attack occurs. The hope is to ultimately learn from the mistakes that occurred in a particular attack and implement key findings to reduce the chances of another attack.

Here’s What the $19 Billion Will Be Used For
As noted, the entire Cybersecurity National Action Plan will get $19 billion in funding under the president’s budget proposal. About $3 billion of that will be spent on IT modernization, but the rest has not yet been earmarked by line item. In a statement, the White House would only say that the sum would be used to fund the aforementioned programs, provide additional resources to government agencies and “help private sector organizations and individuals better protect themselves.”

Some people who care about Web security may have been aware that Feb. 9 was proclaimed Safer Internet Day. The observance, which was organized by the European public-awareness organization Insafe, centers on promoting safe and responsible use of online technology. To celebrate Safer Internet Day, President Barack Obama on Feb. 9 announced the Cybersecurity National Action Plan. The plan, which includes the development of a cyber-security commission, as well as new rules for how the government must safeguard against online attacks, is also focused on creating new ways for consumers and companies to enhance their online security. To prove that he’s serious about improving the nation’s cyber-security, Obama has earmarked $19 billion to fund the program in the $4.1 trillion federal budget proposal he sent Congress on Feb. 9. This slide show focuses on some of the Cybersecurity National Action Plan’s key components that Obama said is intended to “ensure our prosperity and security online for the generations to come.”

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis’ Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.