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Trump OKs 'offensive cyber operations' as deterrent against US rivals

There'll be consequences if foreign adversaries launch cyberattacks against the US, the White House says.

James Martin/CNET

A new directive from US President Donald Trump eases the restrictions on using cyberweapons to protect the United States, National Security Adviser John Bolton said this week.

Speaking at a news briefing Thursday, Bolton said the White House had "authorized offensive cyber operations" against adversaries, The Washington Post reported, saying Bolton didn't elaborate. The briefing was held to unveil Trump's directive, the 40-page National Cyber Strategy (PDF), which outlines how the US plans to handle cybersecurity and foreign adversaries.

The US will "develop swift and transparent consequences" to "deter future bad behavior," says the document, which arrives amid concern about foreign interference in the November midterm elections.

The US will also launch an international Cyber Deterrence Initiative to work with other like-minded countries on strategies to make sure bad actors and adversaries "understand the consequences of their malicious cyber behavior," the document says.

Last December, Trump said cybersecurity was a national defense priority, and the White House called for stronger safeguards against hackers from criminal organizations and from countries like Russia, China and Iran.

The move followed news about Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and other major security issues, such as the breach of credit firm Equifax's network, which affected more than 145 million people in the US.

But the Trump administration drew criticism last May when it eliminated the White House position of cybersecurity coordinator. The National Security Council said the move was about reducing bureaucracy, not reducing security.

The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the new cyber strategy.

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