03:28 PM

White House Sets Cybersecurity R&D Priorities

Roadmap details plans to secure U.S. network infrastructure through agency collaboration, scientific research, and creating more difficult targets for hackers to attack.

Federal Data Center Consolidation Makes Progres
Federal Data Center Consolidation Makes Progress
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The White House has released a roadmap that sets research and development priorities for cybersecurity to accelerate efforts to secure U.S. network infrastructure and catalyze change in the way the nation approaches cybersecurity.

The plan--"Trustworthy Cyberspace: Strategic Plan for the Federal Cybersecurity Research and Development Program"--stems from a 60-day review of the state of cybersecurity in the United States President Obama ordered in early 2009 soon after taking office, according to a White House blog post by U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra and Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt. That report called for urgent action to secure the nation's computer network infrastructure.

The R&D plan--developed by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy--is in response to that call, and aims to jumpstart how the United States approaches the challenge to ensure more effective cyberspace protections.

[ The government needs to do a better job of protecting the nation's infrastructure. Read Smart Grid Security Threatened By Fragmented Control. ]

"Given the magnitude and pervasiveness of cyberspace threats to our economy and national security, it is imperative that we fundamentally alter the dynamics in cybersecurity through the development of novel solutions and technologies," Chopra and Schmidt said in their post. "The federal government is in a unique position to leverage its fundamental research resources to address the underlying causes of cybersecurity problems."

The plan--which represents seven years of examination and consideration of cybersecurity by experts in both the public and private sector--identifies four areas of strategy to focus on to better secure U.S. network infrastructure.

The first is inducing change--using so-called "game changing" themes to understand the root causes of cybersecurity deficiencies that currently exist and coming up with ways to disrupt the status quo to solve them, according to the report. This aspect of research includes creating more "moving targets" for hackers to make it more difficult for them to infiltrate computer networks. Static, predictable networks are more vulnerable and bad guys can take more time to plan and execute their attack.

The second research priority the plan identifies is to treat cybersecurity like any other scientific practice by developing scientific foundations for it, such as laws, hypothesis testing, repeatable experimental designs, standardized data-gathering methods, metrics, and common terminology, among others.

The third strategic focus area is to maximize research impact by ensuring agencies collaborate, coordinate, and integrate their activities around improving cybersecurity. This also includes ensuring cybersecurity research is in line with agency objectives.

The fourth and final cybersecurity R&D priority is to shorten the time it takes for research around cybersecurity to actually be put into practice, according to the report.

The Obama administration has made cybersecurity a key focus of its technology strategy, engaging in a number of efforts to bolster research, share intelligence information and introduce legislation to amp up the protection of computer networks in the United States.

While the feds have made inroads in some areas--with programs to share cybersecurity intelligence between the government and the private sector, for instance--it's lagged in others. This week the feds introduced yet another bill to formalize cybersecurity practices. But the Senate has yet to pass comprehensive cybersecurity legislation despite there being a number of bills up for consideration.

Our annual Federal Government IT Priorities Survey shows how agencies are managing the many mandates competing for their limited resources. Also in the new issue of InformationWeek Government: NASA veterans launch cloud startups, and U.S. Marshals Service completes tech revamp. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2011 | 6:28:07 PM
re: White House Sets Cybersecurity R&D Priorities
The plan lacks specificity. I am somewhat surprised there is no mention of specific threats. Such as the continually growing threat from trusted insiders stealing sensitive or classified information. Appears incremental, evolutionary improvements are sacrificed at the expense of grandiose and elusive revolutionary improvements
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