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2/16/2010
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Military To Tighten Vendor Cybersecurity Policies

The Department of Defense is setting the stage for changes in how vendors handle unclassified military data.

The Department of Defense has signaled its intention to develop new policies requiring its vendors to meet increased standards for cybersecurity for unclassified military information residing on or being carried over private sector systems and networks.

In a memo issued in late January, Department of Defense chief information officer Cheryl Roby laid out a number of leadership responsibilities and strategic guidance on the development of stronger cybersecurity plans.

"It is DoD policy to establish a comprehensive approach for protecting unclassified DoD information transiting or residing on unclassified [Defense industrial base] systems and networks and create a timely, coordinated, and effective partnership with the [Defense industrial base]," Roby wrote.

Hackers have increasingly been targeting and probing the Defense industrial base, sometimes successfully. For example, last year, it was revealed that hackers infiltrated the networks of government contractors and stole sensitive specs on the Pentagon's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter project. This poses a significant challenge, as a wide variety of military information resides on external systems, and a wide variety of defense IT work is outsourced.

The Department of Defense has in recent years been increasing the amount of work it does to secure its cyber supply chain, including taking such extreme measures as procuring chips for sensitive systems only from a limited number of "trusted foundries" in the United States. This effort may put a bit more DoD-wide rigor into similar exercises.

The memo lays out a number of responsibilities for top staff. For example, the DoD CIO will chair a Defense industrial board cybersecurity executive committee and coordinate oversight of industry cybersecurity activities with the DoD's inspector general. The directors of the National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency will provide support and cyber intrusion damage assessment analysis in the case of attack.

Other roles include the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, who's tasked with developing and injecting new cybersecurity policies into DoD's acquisition processes; the DoD's CFO, who will be required to monitor budgets related to these activities to make sure they're adequately resourced; and the director of the DoD's Cyber Crime Center, who will "serve as the focal point for threat information sharing."

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