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2/24/2011
04:45 PM
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Bill Proposes Chief Security Officers At Federal Agencies

The Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act of 2011 calls for the appointment of CISOs at each agency to set up security procedures and ensure the federal government is complying with security regulations.

Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
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Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters

New cybersecurity legislation before Congress calls for each federal agency to appoint a dedicated chief information security officer (CISO) to ensure the federal government is complying with cybersecurity regulations.

The "Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act of 2011" -- introduced a week ago by Sens. Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Susan Collins, R-Me., and Tom Carper, D-Del. -- spells out the role of CISOs within federal agencies and outlines how federal agencies should better manage security both inside organizations and across the federal government.

According to the bill, CISOs will, like CIOs, be given the authority and a budget to perform their duties, first and foremost of which will be to ensure compliance with the security measures they set up within each agency. They also will designate a series of security controls that can be "continuously monitored" to ensure an agency is complying with its own regulations.

CISOs should collaborate with the federal CIO to develop an IT security architecture that can be used by a new office within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) called the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC), which will be established if the bill is passed. The NCCC will enforce cybersecurity policies throughout the federal government, developing operational guidance for CISOs and providing status updates on agency security to Congress.

According to the legislation, CISOs will be reporting to the director of the NCCC, who they must work with not only on security incidents affecting each agency, but also on ones that affect the government that are not under an agency's jurisdiction, according to the bill. The executives also must collaborate with both public and private-sector security stakeholders when incidents occur that affect the security of federal IT systems.

The proposed legislation that calls for CISO appointments was the subject of much controversy before its introduction because many believed it would allow for a so-called "Internet kill switch" measure to allow the president to shut down critical U.S. infrastructure that powers the Web in the event of a major cyber attack or catastrophe. In the end, the bill introduced by the senators actually bans such a provision.

A previous version of the Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act of 2011 was introduced last June as legislation called "Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010," which also would have set up the NCCC within the DHS. That bill made it past the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee but went no further.

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The cybersecurity profession struggles to retain women (figures range from 10 to 20 percent). It's particularly worrisome for an industry with a rapidly growing number of vacant positions.

So why does the shortage of women continue to be worse in security than in other IT sectors? How can men in infosec be better allies for women; and how can women be better allies for one another? What is the industry doing to fix the problem -- what's working, and what isn't?

Is this really a problem at all? Are the low numbers simply an indication that women do not want to be in cybersecurity, and is it possible that more women will never want to be in cybersecurity? How many women would we need to see in the industry to declare success?

Join Dark Reading senior editor Sara Peters and guests Angela Knox of Cloudmark, Barrett Sellers of Arbor Networks, Regina Wallace-Jones of Facebook, Steve Christey Coley of MITRE, and Chris Roosenraad of M3AAWG on Wednesday, July 13 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to discuss all this and more.