President Biden today signed a National Security Memorandum (NSM) intended to improve the cybersecurity of National Security, Department of Defense (DoD), and Intelligence Community (IC) Systems.

The memo outlines how the DoD, national security, and intelligence communities need to comply with Executive Order (E.O) 14028, Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity, which President Biden signed in May of last year.

The White House released a fact sheet explaining that the NSM requires that, at minimum, National Security Systems employ the same network cybersecurity measures as those required of Federal civilian networks in EO 14028.

The White House added that the NSM builds on the “Biden administration’s work to protect our nation from sophisticated malicious cyber activity, from both nation-state actors and cyber criminals.”

According to the Biden administration, the NSM also:

  • “Specifies how the provisions of EO 14028 apply to National Security Systems. The President’s May 2021 Executive Order required that the government ‘shall adopt National Security Systems requirements that are equivalent to or exceed the cybersecurity requirements set forth in this order.’ Consistent with that mandate, this NSM establishes timelines and guidance for how these cybersecurity requirements will be implemented, including multifactor authentication, encryption, cloud technologies, and endpoint detection services.
  • Improves the visibility of cybersecurity incidents that occur on these systems. It requires agencies to identify their national security systems and report cyber incidents that occur on them to the National Security Agency, which by prior policy is the ‘National Manager’ for the U.S. government’s classified systems. This will improve the government’s ability to identify, understand, and mitigate cyber risk across all National Security Systems.
  • Requires agencies to act to protect or mitigate a cyber threat to National Security Systems. The NSM authorizes the National Security Agency, through its role as National Manager for National Security Systems, to create Binding Operational Directives requiring agencies to take specific actions against known or suspected cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities. This directive is modeled on the Department of Homeland Security’s Binding Operational Directive authority for civilian government networks. The NSM directs NSA and DHS to share directives and to learn from each other to determine if any of the requirements from one agency’s directive should be adopted by the other.
  • Requires agencies to secure cross domain solutions – tools that transfer data between classified and unclassified systems. Adversaries can seek to leverage these tools to get access to our classified networks, and the NSM directs decisive action to mitigate this threat. The NSM requires agencies to inventory their cross-domain solutions and directs NSA to establish security standards and testing requirements to better protect these critical systems.”
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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.