Cyber plan gives DHS the keys

The Homeland Security Department could take over the cybersecurity of all federal civilian agencies under proposed legislation that the White House sent to Congress May 12. However, DHS would have only limited authority to oversee the security of privately owned critical infrastructure.

The proposal, which administration officials characterized as a starting point for discussions with Congress and industry, establishes DHS as the lead cybersecurity agency with “primary responsibility within the executive branch for information security,” including the power to mandate policies and activities for government systems, reports William Jackson at FCW.com.

The legislation would also create a regulatory framework for nongovernment critical infrastructure that requires owners and operators to develop security plans, and it would establish a national requirement for notifying people of data breaches.

The relationship between government and industry has been one of the thornier challenges for securing critical infrastructure, and the proposal attempts to find the right balance.

“Perhaps one of the more interesting things in the proposal is that the White House wants for local government and industry to voluntarily ask for help when they have security issues,” writes Eyder Peralta at NPR. “They also want local governments and industry to share 'new types of computer viruses or other cyber threats or incidents' with the federal government. The proposal makes it clear that doing so is legal and provides them immunity if they do so.”

Peralta also noted the bill's application of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to cyber crime, which has previously not been considered subject to RICO even though organized crime rings have been engaged in cyber crime for some time.

Lolita Baldor of the Associated Press reports on tension between business groups, who generally want cybersecurity laws to be light on mandates, and security advocates, who say the White House proposal is toothless.

“The administration's proposal shows no sense of urgency,” said Stewart Baker, a former senior DHS official, as quoted by AP. "It tells even critical industries on which our lives and society depend that they will have years before anyone from government begins to evaluate their security measures."

A senior DHS official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Washington Post that the goal was to encourage good practices from industry. “We worked long and hard to come up with a framework that would enable industry to figure out the best way to protect itself,” the official said.

Kristin Lord, vice president and director of studies at the Center for a New American Security, told the Post that the administration is trying to persuade “critical infrastructure providers to do the right thing by holding out the implied threat of regulation.”

Administration officials said the proposed regulatory framework acknowledges that government does not have all of the answers and elevates public/private cooperation above regulation, Jackson reports. The proposal will likely be reconciled with similar cybersecurity legislation that has been introduced in the House and Senate.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group