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The White House’s National Cybersecurity Strategy asks the private sector to step up to fight cyber attacks. Cloudflare is ready


7 min read
The White House’s National Cybersecurity Strategy asks the private sector to step up to fight cyber attacks. Cloudflare is ready.

On Thursday, March 2, 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration released the National Cybersecurity Strategy aimed at securing the Internet. Cloudflare welcomes the Strategy, and congratulates the White House on this comprehensive, much-needed policy initiative. The goal of the Strategy is to make the digital ecosystem defensible, resistant, and values-aligned. This is a goal that Cloudflare fully supports. The Strategy recognizes the vital role that the private sector has to play in defending the United States against cyber attacks.

The Strategy aims to make a fundamental shift and transformation of roles, responsibilities, and resources in cyberspace by (1) rebalancing the responsibility to defend cyberspace by shifting the burden away from individuals, small businesses, and local governments, and onto organizations that are most capable and best-positioned to reduce risks, like data holders and technology providers; and (2) realigning incentives to favor long-term investments by balancing defending the United States against urgent threats today and simultaneously investing in a resilient future. The Strategy envisions attaining these goals through five collaborative pillars:

  • Pillar One: defending critical infrastructure;
  • Pillar Two: disrupting and dismantling threat actors;
  • Pillar Three: shaping market forces to drive security and resilience;
  • Pillar Four: investing in a resilient future; and
  • Pillar Five: forging international partnerships to pursue shared goals.

Through the Strategy, the U.S. Government is committed to preserving and extending the open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure Internet. Cloudflare shares this commitment, and has built tools and products that are easily deployed and accessible to everyone that help make it a reality. Here are a few things that stand out to us in the Strategy, and how Cloudflare has contributed to the goals we share.

Defending Critical Infrastructure: Shields Up and Zero Trust

Importantly, Pillar One of the Strategy is focused on defending critical infrastructure. Critical infrastructure is vital to the functioning of society, and includes things like gas pipelines, railways, utilities, clean water, hospitals, and electricity, among others. In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and others issued warnings about the increased risk of cyber attacks. There was widespread concern by private sector and government cybersecurity experts about potential retaliation in the United States to the sanctions that resulted from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In response, the Cybersecurity Infrastructure & Security Agency (CISA) announced its Shields Up initiative. When Shields Up was announced, we wrote about the essential tools that Cloudflare offers – for free – for protecting an online presence. We also published a Shields Up reading list.

One way we responded to the increased risk to critical infrastructure was the Critical Infrastructure Defense Project (CIDP), which we launched in partnership with Crowdstrike and Ping Identity, and offered a broad suite of products for free for four months to any United States-based hospital, or energy or water utility. Thankfully, the retaliation did not materialize at the level experts and officials were expecting. But that does not mean that the fear was not well-founded nor that malicious actors do not continue to have designs on critical infrastructure in the United States or around the world.

In addition to Shields Up, the Strategy doubles down on the Zero Trust Framework to guard against cyber attacks, a strategy first announced by the White House in January 2022 when it instructed federal agencies to move towards Zero Trust cybersecurity principles. These principles are rooted in the fundamental principle of “never trust, always verify;” no one is trusted by default from inside or outside of a network, and verification is required from everyone trying to gain access to resources on the network.

We could not agree more with the US government’s decision to modernize by grounding its federal defenses with Zero Trust principles. Zero Trust is not just a buzzword. Cloudflare has been championing Zero Trust for years, and we think it is so important for cybersecurity that we believe that a Chief Zero Trust Officer will become increasingly common over the next year. And because we know how important Zero Trust tools are, we recently announced that civil society and government participants in Project Galileo and the Athenian Project will have free access to Zero Trust products because we believe that qualified vulnerable public interest organizations should have access to Enterprise-level cyber security products no matter their size and budgets.

Disrupting and dismantling threat actors

Pillar Three of the Strategy is focused on disrupting and dismantling threat actors. As a member of the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative, Cloudflare partners with the US government and cyber defenders from organizations across the Internet ecosystem to help increase visibility of malicious activity and threats, and drive collective action. Our network is large, learns from each attack, and is global, providing the best defense against attacks. The more we deal with attacks, the more we know how to stop them, and the easier it gets to find and deal with new threats. We block an average of 136 billion cyber threats per day. Just last month, Cloudflare mitigated a record-breaking 71 million request-per-second DDoS attack, the largest reported HTTP DDoS attack on record, more than 54% higher than the previous reported record of 46M rps in June 2022.

Privacy Preserving Technologies

Pillar Four focuses on investing in a resilient future, partly through supporting privacy-preserving technologies. The Internet was not built with privacy and security in mind, but a more private Internet is a better Internet. Even with encryption, information about consumer IP addresses and the names of websites they visit leak from protocols that weren’t designed to preserve privacy. We believe that reducing the availability of that information can help consumers regain control over their data.

Cloudflare has therefore worked to develop technologies to help build a more privacy-preserving Internet. We’ve been working on technologies that encourage and enable website operators and app developers to build privacy into their products at the protocol level. We’ve released or support a number of services that deploy state-of-the-art, privacy-enhancing technologies for DNS and other communications to help individuals, large corporations, small-businesses, and governments alike. These products include: Privacy Gateway, a fully managed, scalable, and performant Oblivious HTTP (OHTTP) relay, which is designed so that Internet Service Providers don’t know the websites their subscribers are visiting, and likewise websites don’t know the true IP address of their visitors; Private Relay, a version of Privacy Gateway that includes a second relay server that conveys data to websites and applications which hides a device’s true IP address; Cloudflare WARP, a free proxy application that encrypts traffic on the user’s device, routes it through the Cloudflare network, and then routes it on to its intended destination; and, our free, public Domain Name System (DNS) resolver, which helps make Internet traffic more private.

Preparing for the Post-Quantum Future and Safer Internet Protocols

As part of its goal of investing in a resilient future, one of the Strategic Objectives of the Strategy is to prepare for the post-quantum future whereby the government will increase investment in post-quantum. Likewise, the US government encourages the private sector to prepare its systems for the future. Cloudflare is already prepared, and although quantum computers are a future state, Cloudflare is helping to make sure the Internet is ready for when they arrive. Here and here, we describe the impact of quantum computing on cryptography, and how to use stronger algorithms resistant to the power of quantum computing. In October, we announced that by default, all websites and APIs served through Cloudflare now support post-quantum hybrid key agreement. And because we strongly believe that post-quantum security should be the new baseline for the Internet, we offer this post-quantum cryptography free of charge.

We were happy to see some focus in the Strategy on improving Internet protocols, which are important for ensuring that the Internet is functional, safe, and secure. The Strategy envisions a “clean-up effort” of the technical foundations of the Internet including Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) vulnerabilities, unencrypted DNS, and the slow adoption of IPv6. Cloudflare has been a long time supporter of security and privacy improvements to these foundational protocols, and wholeheartedly endorses this clean up effort. We have written about our support for improving the security of these protocols, including securing BGP through the use of RPKI and improving DNS privacy by launching support for DNS over HTTPS, DNS over TLS and Oblivious DNS over HTTPS.

Building International Partnerships and Assisting Allies and Partners

Pillar 5 of the Strategy commits the United States to forging international partnerships to pursue shared goals. Cyber attacks by their very nature are borderless, which means that protecting against cyber attacks cannot mean only protecting entities within one’s borders. Cyber defense is an international effort, and we cannot preserve and extend the open, free, global, interoperable, reliable and secure Internet if we do not help to defend, as well as build the capacity of, other countries through coalition building. The Strategy aims to assist allies and partners. With the invasion of Ukraine, Cloudflare has directly witnessed the importance of private sector collaboration [link to article] in efforts to assist allies and partners. Cloudflare is proud of the role we have played in helping protect Ukraine from cyberattack, which we described here, here, and here. Another way that we are working to provide support to vulnerable infrastructure outside of the United States is through Project Safekeeping, modeled after CIDP. In December, as part of Impact Week, we announced that we would be providing our enterprise-level Zero Trust cybersecurity solution to eligible entities in Australia, Germany, Japan, Portugal, and the United Kingdom, at no cost, with no time limit.

We again congratulate the White House on the National Cybersecurity Strategy. We have partnered with the US government in the past to help the federal government defend itself against cyberattacks, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with the US government and other private sector entities for a more safe and secure Internet.

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