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RSA: Cybersecurity A Joint Fed, Industry Effort

Government officials turned out in force last week to lay out federal cybersecurity policy and encourage greater public-private partnership.

Government officials played a starring role at the annual RSA Conference last week, laying out their plans for government cybersecurity, particularly the need for increased cooperation with industry, in keynotes and panel sessions throughout the week.

White House cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt set the tone in his Tuesday keynote address, focusing heavily on increasing partnerships and transparency when it comes to the federal government's role in cybersecurity.

In his remarks, Schmidt announced that the White House is declassifying part of its 12-part cybersecurity strategy, the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, making note of its calls for increased co-operation between government and industry.

Schmidt dedicated most of his talk to giving an update on the progress of near-term action items the Cyber Policy Review completed last year. Schmidt noted the development of new Federal Information Security Management Act metrics, the development of formal cybersecurity education and awareness programs, and other ongoing efforts.

Department of Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano, speaking on Wednesday, echoed Schmidt's calls for increased cooperation, as she gave an overview of the DHS' cybersecurity role, both inside government and out of it. "The President himself has described our networks as strategic national assets, and he has called the growing number of attacks on these networks one of the most serious economic and national security threats our nation faces," she said.

Napolitano outlined DHS' roles in combating electronic crimes through the Secret Service's electronic crimes task force and Immigration and Customs Enforcement's National Intellectual Property Rights Center, as well as its role as government's key liaison with the private sector to help protect critical infrastructure from cyberattack via groups like the newly developed Industrial Control System Cyber Emergency Response Team.

The Secretary also noted that DHS is developing the National Cybersecurity Incident Response plan in collaboration with the private sector to determine the balanced role of the government and private industry in the event of a major cyber attack as coordinated out of DHS' new National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center.

In his keynote address on Thursday, FBI director Robert Mueller stressed public-private partnership against cybercrime. "We must continue to press forward country by country and company by company," he said, while assuring that the FBI can and does investigate attacks with little disruption to the flow of business, without publicizing their investigations, without compromising trade secrets and while protecting privacy. "Historically there has been a dichotomy between network security and the investigative process. It has been a great divide but it needn't be."

Even former officials got in on the act, discussing the need for a more integrated approach to cybersecurity, including former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff and former Bush administration cybersecurity and counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke, who sat on the same panel to discuss privacy implications of the government's involvement in cybersecurity efforts. In all, more than two dozen current and former government officials spoke at RSA.

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