DHS creates emergency response team

Following months of informal coordination, Homeland Security Department officials today created the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team to lead all incident prevention, warnings and response efforts across the country.

Under the department's National Cyber Security Division, the US-CERT is intended to be "a single streamlined center for incident response," said Robert Liscouski, assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at DHS.

Liscouski spoke at a breakfast meeting sponsored by the Information Technology Association of America.

DHS' creation moved the government's cyberattack response capabilities into a single organization at the beginning of the year. Personnel and processes have already been tested to a certain extent by the recent Internet worms and viruses, such as Blaster and SoBig.F, said Larry Hale, director of the Federal Computer Incident Response Center, which will be a significant part of the US-CERT.

However, officially establishing the US-CERT includes forming a strategy and priorities specifically for this function.

These include:

*Better and faster warning and response, with the immediate goal of cutting response time to 30 minutes or less by the end of 2004.

*Better coordination and dissemination of information, establishing the center as the place for national information.

*Reducing vulnerabilities through common development practices and education.

*Improving incident prevention and detection capabilities.

Defining what type of response is required within 30 minutes will be difficult, Liscouski said. At the start, it may be simply a response that something is happening, with details to come later on exactly what it is and what people must do, he said.

The key to all of the priorities, however, is to provide specific goals for the new organization. "We want to have very definable metrics by which we can measure performance," he said. "We know we're being ambitious here, but these times call for being ambitious...we're going to take risks, make mistakes and make adjustments."

Coordination with industry warnings and response will be important — and one message that the entire division will focus on is that the US-CERT information is at the top of the ladder, while company-specific information fills in the details under that, Liscouski said.

Industry must do more than stay in touch with the division. "We need solution sets," said Frank Libutti, undersecretary of information analysis and infrastructure protection. "We don't need stale rhetoric."

The US-CERT's core capabilities will be supplied by the Carnegie Mellon University Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center (CERT/CC), building on the relationship FedCIRC established, Liscouski said.

FedCIRC will continue as an entity within the larger organization. But the new partnership with the coordination center will include additional funding for the CERT/CC, to enhance exiting capabilities and to establish new ones, Liscouski said.

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