Trump makes cyberwarfare an official priority for new White House

The new administration announced an official position on cyberwarfare Friday, pledging to make the development of "defensive and offensive cyber capabilities" a priority in the fight against terror and the protection of American secrets.

Digital weapons would be used to "disrupt and disable propaganda and recruiting" and protect secrets

US Cyber Command, which is located on The National Security Administration (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md., is responsible for U.S. government cyberattacks against targets such as the Islamic State. (The Associated Press)

U.S. President Donald Trump will make cyberwarfare a "priority" in the fight against ISIS and other terrorist organizations, the new administration revealed on Friday.

The White House website was updated shortly after President Trump's inauguration — offering little insight into the government's plans, but the clearest official indication yet that the government is actively engaged in digital attacks. 

For example, under the section titled America First Foreign Policy, the government calls defeating ISIS and other terroist groups "our highest priority," and says that the U.S. will "engage in cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable propaganda and recruiting" in collaboration with international partners.

Under another section, Making Our Military Strong Again, cyberwarfare is mentioned too.

"Cyberwarfare is an emerging battlefield, and we must take every measure to safeguard our national security secrets and systems," the page reads, adding that the government "will make it a priority to develop defensive and offensive cyber capabilities at our U.S. Cyber Command, and recruit the best and brightest Americans to serve in this crucial area."

President Trump had previously said in October that cybersecurity would be "an immediate and top priority" if elected.

Past efforts shrouded in secrecy

Former president Barack Obama's administration was often reticent to discuss the U.S.' offensive and defensive capabilities in the digital world, and U.S. senators expressed frustration last year that the previous government did not have a more clear or coherent cyberwarfare plan.

It took the government years to admit that it was behind the Stuxnet virus used to sabotage uranium enrichment facilities in Iran, and has provided little insight into what U.S. government agencies do when they discover security flaws in widely-used software — flaws that could be exploited in a similar manner to Stuxnet, by both the U.S. or its adversaries.

Towards the end of former president Obama's tenure, however, the government began to speak more openly about its efforts, such as plans to use weaponized malware in its fight against the Islamic State — but even then, only via anonymous officials.

It remains to be seen what specific measures President Trump — who spoke vaguely about his own plans during the election campaign — will enact.

"As a deterrent against attacks on our critical resources, the United States must possess the unquestioned capacity to launch crippling cyber counter-attacks," he told the crowd at rally in Virginia last October. "This is the warfare of the future, America's dominance in this arena must be unquestioned."


Matthew Braga

Senior Technology Reporter

Matthew Braga is the senior technology reporter for CBC News, where he covers stories about how data is collected, used, and shared. You can contact him via email at For particularly sensitive messages or documents, consider using Secure Drop, an anonymous, confidential system for sharing encrypted information with CBC News.