Agencies tap net assessment toolkit

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The Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office is busier than ever as federal officials move to take advantage of the agency's expertise in preparing for cyber and physical attacks on the nation.

President Clinton created the CIAO in 1998 to raise awareness about critical infrastructure protection in government and industry. Under Presidential Decision Directive 63, Clinton required agencies to protect the information systems that support the nation's critical infrastructure, including electric power and transportation systems.

The interagency group worked for the past three years to get the word out about the importance of meeting critical infrastructure protection requirements, but after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, that education is no longer necessary, John Tritak, director of the CIAO, said Nov. 13 at the CIO Summit in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The Office of Management and Budget recently directed major agencies to take advantage of a tool the CIAO developed called Project Matrix. That assessment methodology helps agencies determine the points of vulnerability within their networks, especially when it comes to interdependencies with other systems and networks.

Last week, at a hearing grading federal agencies' information security status, Mark Forman, OMB's associate director for information technology and e-government, told Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.) that agencies are being asked to reallocate fiscal 2002 funding to put together enough money for Project Matrix assessments.

The CIAO is working with almost 10 agencies to implement Project Matrix, Tritak said. In addition to working with all of the other agencies that will be covered by the OMB directive, the CIAO is also working on a modified version of Project Matrix to look across government, he said.

The new methodology requested by OMB will help determine the priority level for critical systems and services across government, Tritak said. The prioritization will be based largely on time, with systems that cannot go down for any amount of time getting higher priority than systems that the country can afford to have off-line for several hours or days.

OMB will use these assessments to work with agencies on policies and plans to address the vulnerabilities, and also in budget talks with Congress, Tritak said.

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