President Biden and a number of his senior officials Wednesday afternoon met with leaders of some of the nation’s key economic sectors to discuss how the federal government and private sector can work better together to strengthen cybersecurity across the country and the administration said there will be action items that follow.
There will be announcements “across the key areas, significantly on technology and talent, made by the participants, both government and private sector,” a senior administration official said on Tuesday afternoon during a background call with media to discuss the president’s meeting with industry officials. Reporting about the call was embargoed until Wednesday morning.
The start of the meeting with Biden was open to media and the president highlighted that most of the nation’s “critical infrastructure…is owned and operated by the private sector, and the federal government can’t meet this challenge alone. So, I’ve invited you all here today because you have the power, the capacity, and the responsibility, I believe, to raise the bar on cybersecurity. And so, ultimately, we got a lot of work to do.”
The administration official declined to go into specifics pending announcements of planned actions but added later that in the month-long planning for the meeting there have been discussions and “you’ve heard me say many times in the preceding months, we need to bake security in by design into tech, otherwise we’re pushing the cost of maintaining security to the users. You’re pushing it on small companies who’ve got a patch. You’re pushing it on…older or less educated, or less technically comfortable people on how to be safe online. We’ve got to have more secure tech.”
Wednesday’s meeting began just after 2 p.m. EDT in the White House and was followed immediately by three parallel breakout sessions. The private sector was represented by leaders in the financial, energy and water, technology, insurance and education arenas.
Some of the industry participants will include Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, Tom Fanning, chairman, president and CEO of Southern Company, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Alan Schnitzer, chairman and CEO of Travelers, and JB Milliken, chancellor of the University of Texas System.
The three breakout sessions will focus on critical infrastructure resilience, which will be led by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and include the energy, water and financial sectors, the need to build enduring cybersecurity, which will be co-chaired by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Small Business Administration Isabel Guzman and include the technology and insurance sectors, and the cybersecurity workforce, which will be chaired by National Cyber Director Chris Inglis and include education leaders.
Regarding the participation of leaders from the insurance industry, the senior administration official said “We really see insurance as a way to drive better cybersecurity practices.”
The meeting demonstrates Biden’s “commitment to public private partnership” and this won’t be his last “engagement with the private sector,” the official said.
Following the breakout sessions, the groups met with Inglis and Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, “to get a readout of what was discussed” and relay that to Biden, the official said.
The meetings are also an opportunity for “new ideas and new discussion” given the range of expertise represented by the participants, the official said.
“So, the president recognizes that the escalating cyber threats we face require a whole-of-nation effort, and this meeting will highlight the scope of the challenge we face, but also the opportunities,” the official said. “So, it’s really a call to action.”