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White House issues memorandum to bolster national security systems

Agencies must now implement multi-factor authentication within 180 days, along with encryption for data at rest and in transit

The White House issued a memorandum on Wednesday detailing new cyber security requirements and timelines to protect national security systems.

The Memorandum on Improving the Cybersecurity of National Security, Department of Defense, and Intelligence Community Systems, builds on an Executive Order issued last May to bolster cyber security across the federal government. It identifies more requirements for national security systems that go beyond those in the original document.

The memorandum requires agencies to inventory all systems affecting national security within 90 days. It also calls for an incident reporting and response program with clear reporting deadlines.

It also addresses systems that span different security domains, such as those designed for sharing information between different agencies.

The head of the National Security Agency will act as a national manager and advise on their security, the memorandum says. The national manager is responsible for advising on and enforcing most of the requirements in the memorandum.

The Executive Order last May requested the implementation of zero-trust architectures, but today's memorandum puts a timeline on it. It calls on the head of each agency to create an implementation plan within 60 days, incorporating the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) zero-trust guidance documents.

Agencies must also implement multi-factor authentication within 180 days, along with encryption for data at rest and in transit, the memorandum said.

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The memorandum also accounts for quantum-proof encryption, which researchers are designing to ensure that encrypted data is protected against quantum computers. Quantum systems will eventually be able to unlock data encrypted by conventional asymmetric encryption algorithms when they become powerful enough, fear experts.

The memorandum calls for agencies to identify any encryption that isn't compliant with an NSA-approved list of quantum-proof encryption algorithms within 180 days. They must also provide a timeline to swap out these algorithms, it adds.

Other mandatory measures include a program for collaboration between defense and intelligence agency participants on cyber security incident response and cloud security.

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