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Risk

DHS Task Force Moves Forward on Playbooks for Supply Chain Security

The public/private task force takes early steps toward securing the end-to-end supply chain.

In July, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the formation of the Information Communications Technology Supply Chain Task Force. Its purpose: to develop "playbooks" for organizations that need an operational response to security risks in the supply chain.

This week, the task force's executive committee met for the first time as it started on the road to producing those DHS playbooks for both government and industry.

The public/private task force draws its members from a wide cross-section of industry and government. From industry, the members include Accenture, AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter, Cisco, Comcast, CTIA, CyberRx, Cybersecurity Coalition, Cyxtera, FireEye, Intel, ITI, IT-ISAC, Microsoft, NAB, NCTA, NTCA, Palo Alto Networks, Samsung, Sprint, Threat Sketch, TIA, T-Mobile, USTelecom, and Verizon. From government, the members are the DHS; the departments of Defense, Treasury, Justice, and Commerce; the General Services Administration; the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; and the Social Security Administration.

Cisco's task force representative is Edna Conway, chief security officer for the company's global value chain. According to Conway, the three broad threats to be countered are manipulation, espionage, and disruption. While various government standards speak to the security of different pieces of the supply chain, the task force will look at "security for systems across the product life cycle," she says.

For Conway, the entire product life cycle is key, and she's very specific about the terms she chooses. For example, she replaces "supply chain" with "value chain," which is "bigger than the supply chain," she says. "When DHS is talking about supply chain, it's what I call the value chain."

As an example, Conway points to the very beginning of a product's life. "Design and development is the first stage, but it's not owned or operated by the supply chain," she explains. The same is true of product management, she says, given the various questions about product marketing and delivery that they must answer.

The channel – the way the product reaches the customer – is also part of the value chain, which doesn't end when with the customer transaction, she adds. "Then there's support, then end of life," Conway says. "I'm thinking of the value chain end to end."

And that includes IT security at all levels. "I think with this comprehensive approach, considering continuity and availability in addition to integrity, we're taking supply chain management into IT security and integrity," she says. The comprehensive nature of the approach, along with the requirement that the overall solution be affordable and cost-effective, argues for a specific approach, she says.

"The only way to solve it is a risk-based approach," she explains. "You need a layered approach that gives you a better bang, not only from a security perspective, but gives you better bang for the buck." Working with the other members of the task force to develop the play books for this approach leaves Conway optimistic about finding solutions.

"The message," she says, "is a message of hope. There are good people focusing on this and coming together in public/private partnerships, looking at it not from a individual point of view, but one of mutual assistance and benefit."

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Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Analyst at Omdia, focusing on enterprise security management. Curtis has been writing about technologies and products in computing and networking since the early 1980s. He has been on staff and contributed to technology-industry publications ... View Full Bio
 

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