U.S. government to make cybersecurity ‘playbooks’ to help it fend off hackers

The U.S. State Department is developing a set of “playbooks” to aid the federal government’s ever-increasing cybersecurity efforts. 

The new plan, first reported by NextGov, comes a few months after Russian hackers infiltrated the State Department’s unclassified email servers. During the same period, the White House was hacked, exposing President Obama’s unclassified emails, anonymous government officials told the New York Times.

Now, the State Department is turning to the cybersecurity industry to create playbooks that will serve as a “a how-to-guide for conducting different types of cybersecurity operational tasks,” according to a “Request for Information” released by the department late last week. These playbooks will aim to “reduce Cyber Risks to Critical Infrastructure, meet security requirements, and improve information security operations activities within the Department of State.”

Foreign hackers have become an increasingly prevalent headache for the United States government. At the same time Russian hackers had gained access to the State Department and the White House’s unclassified email systems, Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter said that Russian hackers had attacked the Pentagon’s unclassified systems but were eventually “kicked off.”  

Earlier this year, The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which is essentially the Human Resources department for all United States government employees, was attacked in what became the largest and most devastating hack in United States government history. More than 18 million records were stolen by foreign hackers, according to FBI Director James Comey.

The playbooks won’t just be for protection from overseas hackers. The State Department says it wants to “work closely with specialized cybersecurity experts” in order to “clearly guide both offensive cyber operations and responses to cyber-attacks.”

It’s unclear how much of this information gathered by the department will be released to the public, but the agency said the playbooks will be “releasable” to the public upon completion.

Last year, the United State’s chief Information Officer released a playbook to help developers create applications for American citizens.

The playbooks will be part of a one year contract issued by the State Department. 

H/T NextGov | Illustration by Max Fleishman

William Turton

William Turton

Once named one of Forbes’ 20 Under 20 and hired as a staff writer for the Daily Dot when he was still a senior in high school, William Turton is a rising tech reporter focusing on information security, hacking culture, and politics. Since leaving the Daily Dot in April 2016, his work has appeared on Gizmodo, the Outline, and Vice News Tonight on HBO.