National Cyber Director stresses the need for unified cybersecurity requirements in the US

Harry Coker, Director of the Office of the National Cyber Director, urges US Congress to unify cybersecurity regulations across critical infrastructure sectors, citing challenges and discrepancies identified in private sector feedback.

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The head of the US Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD), Harry Coker, has urged the US Congress to harmonise cross-sector baseline cybersecurity requirements in regulated industries, following years of federal and international guidance. Coker highlighted that the lack of regulatory harmonisation poses significant challenges to both cybersecurity outcomes and business competitiveness, as reported by organisations representing the majority of critical infrastructure sectors.

Harry Coker, a Navy veteran and former executive director of the NSA (2017-2019), was confirmed by the US Senate as ONCD director in December 2023, following the resignation of former ONCD Director Chris Inglis in February 2023.

In August 2023, the Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD) sought private sector input on the state of cybersecurity regulation. Feedback was received from 11 of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors, encompassing over 15,000 businesses, states, and other organizations in the US. The summary of these responses revealed several challenges, including the absence of reciprocity between state and federal regulators and international partners. Regulatory inconsistencies that create barriers to entry, especially for small and mid-sized businesses have also been mentioned among key issues for industry. Furthermore, organizations expressed confusion about which federal agencies are responsible for regulating the defence industrial base, noting that it is unclear which federal agency acts as the clearinghouse for cyber-related regulations and requirements.

In response to the feedback, Coker announced that ONCD has initiated new harmonisation projects, including a pilot reciprocity framework within a critical infrastructure subsector. The pilot project aims to provide valuable insights for designing a comprehensive cybersecurity regulatory approach. Coker emphasized the need for Congress’s assistance to bring all relevant government agencies together to develop a cross-sector framework for harmonisation and reciprocity of baseline cybersecurity requirements. ONCD has not yet provided further details about the pilot project or other ongoing initiatives aimed at driving regulatory harmonisation.