DHS doesn't take cyberattack threats seriously, former IG says

HILTON HEAD, S.C. -- The United States and the Homeland Security Department are “manifestly and woefully unprepared” for a cyberattack, the former DHS inspector general said.

Al Qaeda is training people and focusing on launching cyberattacks, but DHS has “failed to make this a priority,” said Clark Ervin, the director of the Aspen Institute’s Homeland Security Initiative and former DHS IG, speaking at the American Council for Technology's Management of Change conference here.

DHS is on its fifth cybersecurity leader. That is an indication of the department’s lack of focus on this issue, he said, and it is an illustration of how unprepared the agency is to serve as a model for how cybersecurity should be handled.

Ervin, who has written a book, “Open Target: Where America Is Vulnerable to Attack,” said terrorists are keenly aware of where the country’s weaknesses are and will work to take advantage of those weaknesses.

He referred to one IG report that stated DHS wireless networks were largely unsecured. If the agency isn’t addressing issues as seemingly simple as securing wireless, what else is not getting done? he asked.

Ervin offered a somewhat damning view of the efforts to secure the country. He said the United States is safer today than it was before the 2001 terrorist attacks, but the real question that needs to be asked is whether the country is as secure as it should be and as it needs to be.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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