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Inside DHS' Classified Cyber Coordination Headquarters

The Department of Homeland Security recently brought its classified National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center down to an unclassified level for one day only, and InformationWeek Government was there to take photos. The facility looks and functions like a state-of-the-art network operations center and much more. The NCCIC, as it's called, is the locus of DHS-led inter-agency cybersecurity work in the federal government. That includes providing an integrated response to cyber th
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Typically, the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, the agency's hub for coordinated responses to cyber attacks, is a classified facility, residing several floors above a chain restaurant in a non-descript Arlington, Va., office building. Visitors to the Department of Homeland Security facility are required to go through several layers of security before they can actually enter the office space, including locking up their cell phones in tiny lockers. But for one day only, the DHS brought the NCCIC offices down to an unclassified level and InformationWeek Government was there to take photos.

The occasion for DHS briefly opening the doors of NCCIC to reporters was a preview of Cyber Storm III, an international, coordinated cybersecurity simulation that entailed mock attacks on the Internet's domain name system. The exercise tested both the draft National Cyber Incident Response Plan, an effort to provide a coordinated response to major cybersecurity incidents NCCIC. The large-scale exercise included representatives from seven cabinet-level federal departments, intelligence agencies, 11 states, 12 international partners and 60 private sector companies in multiple critical infrastructure sectors like banking, defense, energy and transportation. Though the facility may have been brought down to an unclassified level for the event, we were still warned against taking pictures of cyber-analysts' faces, photos of physical security sensors on the walls and ceilings, and wandering off into areas of the facility where classified work might still be going on.


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