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3/24/2011
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DHS Outlines Cybersecurity Strategy

Automation, interoperability, and authentication are the building blocks for a secure network defense, says the Department of Homeland Security.

Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will take a three-pronged approach to centralizing security across the federal government, using automation, interoperability, and authentication to secure networks against attack, officials said in a white paper released this week.

Calling them the three "building blocks for a healthy cyber ecosystem," the paper -- the result of discussions 13 agencies had at a federal cybersecurity workshop last year -- outlines a plan for creating a more centralized cyber network across federal agencies in which devices "collaborate in near-real time in their own defense," according to the paper.

"If these building blocks were incorporated into cyber devices and processes, cyber stakeholders would have significantly stronger means to identify and respond to threats -- creating and exchanging trusted information and coordinating courses of action in near real time," Philip Reitinger, DHS deputy undersecretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate, said in a blog post on the DHS site. Reitinger previously was a cybersecurity executive at Microsoft and was responsible for the preparation of the paper.

The paper describes the creation of a network in which devices attached to the network "can become actors in their own and the network's defense."

One of the security concepts cited as a way to do this is continuous monitoring, an idea that is becoming a popular concept for improving the security of federal networks. Continuous monitoring as a practice uses a variety of software so system administrators can automatically detect and report vulnerabilities in the network.

An industry group recently urged the federal government to add the practice as a requirement in the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), the federal standard for implementing cybersecurity. In its own whitepaper, the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness said that including real-time continuous monitoring in federal networks would safeguard them against both inside and outside threats.

In his post, Reitinger said that the DHS will solicit ideas from third parties outside the government to create a more secure cyber network, a plan DHS secretary Janet Napolitano also supported during a recent talk at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology .

"DHS intends to leverage the expertise of representatives from industry, academia, and other government agencies as we work to understand cyber threats and manage risk in cyberspace," Reitinger wrote.

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