Current 'Whac-A-Mole' cybersecurity approach not a winner, DHS official says

Senior DHS official says overall cyber environment must be made more secure

Current computer security efforts resemble the arcade game “Whac-A-Mole” and demonstrate the overall need for a more secure cyber ecosystem, according to  senior DHS cybersecurity official Bruce McConnell.

“A threat pops up here, we whack it down, and another one comes up here – this is the environment that many of your enterprise cybersecurity officers are facing,” McConnell, counselor to DHS’ top cybersecurity official, told a crowd of information technology vendors Nov. 5. “We can’t continue to play Whac-A-Mole; we’ve got to move forward and have a fundamentally more secure [cyber] ecosystem.”

McConnell said current conditions aren’t sufficient because of the very large number of people online, the increasingly complexity of computer networks, and the economic and security importance of IT systems.

“[W]e can’t get there – to real security – today, but at the same time we have to continue to work to secure where we are today, [while] at the same time planning for tomorrow,” he said.

McConnell said a more secure cyber environment will require:

  • More cybersecurity professionals.
  • Better metrics to measure the security of systems.
  • Improved ability to authenticate identity online.
  • Increased automation of responses to security threats.

In addition, McConnell said there must have a clear delineation of the cybersecurity roles and responsibilities for different agencies and industry. He also said future cybersecurity solutions would require close collaboration with other nations.

In the meantime, McConnell said the rapid pace in which technology changes complicates the situation.

“So it’s a big problem, there’s definitely job security in this arena,” McConnell said during the conference held by Input, a market intelligence and consulting firm.

During the speech, McConnell detailed several government efforts designed to improve cybersecurity. DHS is responsible for securing the government’s civilian .gov domain and working with industry to improve cybersecurity under the government’s current IT protection strategy.

McConnell said DHS was working to explain the effects of proposed cybersecurity bills to officials in Congress. Meanwhile, he predicted that computer security-related legislation would pass next year, and said it was important to use that opportunity to make as many improvements as possible.

“We need to try to get as much as we can get next year because we don’t get that many bites of the apple,” he said, explaining that major changes could improve the Federal Information Security Management Act. “We’re hopeful that we’ll get something next year.”

1105 Media Inc., Federal Computer Week’s parent company, was the media sponsor for the event.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.


  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

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