Daily Archives: March 12, 2009

Who can do security – A problem of collaboration?

CNET’s Declan McCullagh summarizes the discussion of who should be managing cybersecurity (a good article).

Part of official Washington’s dissatisfaction with DHS involves disagreements with not just who should handle cybersecurity topics, but what should be done. Security hawks would like the government to have the authority to order around the private sector. Defense hawks would like more focus on offensive “cyberattacks.” Privacy advocates worry about Homeland Security’s expansive mission, and remember how the NSA and FBI fought for many years to restrict domestic use of encryption.

James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said:

Our report concluded that the market would never deliver adequate security and the government must establish regulatory thresholds for critical infrastructure. We proposed a new, more flexible approach to developing regulation that was based on close cooperation with industry in developing standards and an avoidance of prescriptive regulations that spell out in precise detail what companies must do.

Amit Yoran of Netwitness Corporation testified:

In Rod Beckstrom’s resignation letter last week, he states, “NSA effectively controls DHS cyber efforts thru detailees, technology insertion and the proposed move of NPPD and the NCSC to a Ft Meade NSA facility. NSA currently dominates most national cyber efforts…The intelligence culture is very different than a network operations or security culture. In addition, the threats to our democratic processes are significant if all top level government network security and monitoring are handled by any one organization.” This could not have been more accurately stated. We must enable civil government to succeed at this mission.

In reference to tools required to better work with private sector partners, she notes:

A deeper understanding of cyber defense and security operations in the private sector is required by those crafting the evolution of these programs or future programs so that adequate incentives can be appropriately incorporated into these programs. Such incentives might include tax consequences, fines, liability levers, public recognition, or even at an operational level, such as the sharing of threat intelligence, technical knowledge or incident response support to name just a few.

Mary Ann Davidson, CSO of Oracle summed:

In the same way our nation’s electrical grid, pipelines, roads and railways support our military but are not run by our military, our critical cyber infrastructures and the companies who create
them cannot simply fall under military control. Of course our government should defend
our cyber interests, but in the same way we would abhor a military presence at every
intersection, we must also ensure civilian control over the normal operation of our digital

David Powner of the Government Accountability Office offered the following recommendations:

Key Strategy Improvements Identified by Cybersecurity Experts
1. Develop a national strategy that clearly articulates strategic objectives, goals, and priorities.
2. Establish White House responsibility and accountability for leading and overseeing national
cybersecurity policy.
3. Establish a governance structure for strategy implementation.
4. Publicize and raise awareness about the seriousness of the cybersecurity problem.
5. Create an accountable, operational cybersecurity organization.
6. Focus more actions on prioritizing assets, assessing vulnerabilities, and reducing
vulnerabilities than on developing additional plans.
7. Bolster public/private partnerships through an improved value proposition and use of
8. Focus greater attention on addressing the global aspects of cyberspace.
9. Improve law enforcement efforts to address malicious activities in cyberspace.
10. Place greater emphasis on cybersecurity research and development, including consideration of
how to better coordinate government and private sector efforts.
11. Increase the cadre of cybersecurity professionals.
12. Make the federal government a model for cybersecurity, including using its acquisition function
to enhance cybersecurity aspects of products and services.

Scott Charney, VP Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing, spoke of the “imperative to radically evolve and elevate the
public private partnership model;  the need for an identity metasystem that makes the Internet
dramatically more secure while protecting important social values such as privacy and free
speech; and the necessity for a new regulatory model that protects innovation while providing
appropriate government oversight.”   He summarizes a history of public-private partnerships constructed to manage cybersecurity problems:

Since the 1990s, well-intended public private partnerships have been created to address this
need, yielding a perplexing array of advisory groups with overlapping missions, different
stakeholders with varying capabilities, insufficiently articulated roles and responsibilities, and
plans with literally hundreds upon hundreds of recommendations. In the few instances where
groups overcame institutional adversities and developed meaningful recommendations, the
repeated unwillingness or inability to implement those recommendations at the Federal level has
damaged the partnership significantly. Absent a comprehensive national strategy and clear
purpose, both government and private sector stakeholders will continue to struggle to be

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