'Cultural shift' aids continuous monitoring

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Continuous diagnostics and mitigation tools are becoming a regular feature of federal agencies' thought processes as the cross-government cyberthreat mitigation effort evolves, according to officials in charge of implementing the programs.

Agencies seeking to catch cyberthreats in real time and increase situational awareness before problems cause damage are beginning to internalize the development of CDM capabilities, said Margie Graves, deputy CIO at the Department of Homeland Security, during a Feb. 20 panel discussion sponsored by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management.

The added consideration is the result of upfront communication and collaboration among agencies, and a willingness to increase the ability to handle a fluid threat environment, she said.

It's a cultural shift for agencies accustomed to security checklists and formal reviews, Graves said, and the challenge is made doubly hard by technological game-changers such as mobile, cloud computing and open data.

Agencies have already begun implementing the initial phase of the CDM effort under blanket purchase agreements FEDSIM released last summer, said Steve Viar, director of the General Services Administration’s Federal Systems Integration and Management Center (FEDSIM).

GSA is DHS' partner in offering CDM products across government. DHS oversees development of overall agency requirements for cyber defense gear and services, while GSA oversees procurement, operation and maintenance of the electronic diagnostic sensors that federal agencies will deploy on their networks to detect cyber intrusions, and the electronic dashboards that accumulate and analyze that data.

Viar said the release of additional contracts for dashboards that will collect intrusion data is imminent. The dashboards will provide summary information from participating agencies that will feed into a central federal-level dashboard.

Graves and Viar said the dashboards are crucial elements in the growing acceptance of CDM at federal agencies. The ability to address cyber intrusions and attacks in real time is a big improvement over agencies' older practice of documenting and cataloging intrusions and then going back to correct problems in a three-year review cycle.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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