A draft executive order directs U.S. spy agencies to share the latest intelligence about cyberthreats with the companies operating electric grids, water plants, railroads and other vital industries in order to protect them from electronic attacks.
The order is taking shape as the Obama administration voices growing concern that Iran could be the first country to use cyberterrorism against the United States.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that the military is ready to retaliate if the U.S. is hit by cyberweapons. But the country is poorly prepared to prevent an attack that could damage or knock out critical services that are part of everyday life.
The White House declined to say when the president will sign the order. Congress failed this summer to pass cybersecurity legislation.