02:32 PM

DHS Urged To Bolster Cyber Infrastructure Security

Homeland Security must work more with power and telecom network owners to ensure they could survive a disaster, GAO reports.

Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is not appropriately handling its task to ensure that U.S. critical infrastructure will be resilient in the event of a disaster, according to the federal government's watchdog agency.

The DHS is in charge of cybersecurity for the critical infrastructure that powers networks of nationwide importance, such as power grids and telecommunications networks. These networks are largely owned by private operators, which the DHS is working closely with on disaster-recovery strategies.

While the agency is working to bridge the gap between the public and private sector to secure U.S. critical infrastructure, it could be doing more, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The DHS has been assessing network vulnerability onsite at critical infrastructure and key resources (CIKS) facilities, work that includes evaluating how network owners and operators are addressing resiliency gaps.

To do this, the agency operates a Protective Security Advisor Program (PSAP), which deploys security specialists, or Protective Security Advisors (PSAs), to help infrastructure owners and to act as mediators between them and the DHS and other government agencies at the federal, state and local levels.

Some of the problem the DHS has is in its management of these PSAs, according to the GAO. While the DHS has trained PSAs on the resiliency topics they should identify and help network owners and operators implement, it has not appropriately trained them to articulate their role with regard to resiliency issues, or to promote strategies and practices to those who own and operate critical infrastructure, according to the GAO.

Moreover, the GAO report suggests that the DHS's role as liaison to the private sector for this task, as well as the way the partnership is set up, may be too unwieldy for the agency to manage.

The DHS is struggling with how to share its recommendations on resiliency with network owners and operators because of the voluntary nature of the work, according to the report. While the DHS is responsible for securing critical infrastructure, it is not able to identify or promote practices that could be construed as standards to the operators of that infrastructure.

The DHS also faces challenges in coming up with resiliency strategies for the diversity of the networks it's trying to protect, according to the GAO.

To streamline its task to ensure critical infrastructure is resilient in the event of a disaster, the GAO is recommending the DHS develop resiliency performance measures and update its guidelines for the PSAs that work with network owners and operators.

The agency also should consider developing a better approach to disseminating resiliency information and recommendations.

The DHS said it is taking action to implement the first two recommendations but still considering what action, if any, to take on the third.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: "Why else would HR ask me if I have a handicap?"
Current Issue
The Changing Face of Identity Management
Mobility and cloud services are altering the concept of user identity. Here are some ways to keep up.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
Published: 2015-10-15
The Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) subsystem in the Linux kernel through 4.x mishandles requests for Graphics Execution Manager (GEM) objects, which allows context-dependent attackers to cause a denial of service (memory consumption) via an application that processes graphics data, as demonstrated b...

Published: 2015-10-15
netstat in IBM AIX 5.3, 6.1, and 7.1 and VIOS 2.2.x, when a fibre channel adapter is used, allows local users to gain privileges via unspecified vectors.

Published: 2015-10-15
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in eXtplorer before 2.1.8 allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of arbitrary users for requests that execute PHP code.

Published: 2015-10-15
Directory traversal vulnerability in QNAP QTS before 4.1.4 build 0910 and 4.2.x before 4.2.0 RC2 build 0910, when AFP is enabled, allows remote attackers to read or write to arbitrary files by leveraging access to an OS X (1) user or (2) guest account.

Published: 2015-10-15
Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) 1.1j allows local users to gain privileges via vectors involving addition of an SSH key, aka Bug ID CSCuw46076.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio

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.