Cyber plan gives DHS the keys

The Homeland Security Department could take over the cybersecurity of all federal civilian agencies under proposed legislation that the White House sent to Congress May 12. However, DHS would have only limited authority to oversee the security of privately owned critical infrastructure.

The proposal, which administration officials characterized as a starting point for discussions with Congress and industry, establishes DHS as the lead cybersecurity agency with “primary responsibility within the executive branch for information security,” including the power to mandate policies and activities for government systems, reports William Jackson at FCW.com.

The legislation would also create a regulatory framework for nongovernment critical infrastructure that requires owners and operators to develop security plans, and it would establish a national requirement for notifying people of data breaches.

The relationship between government and industry has been one of the thornier challenges for securing critical infrastructure, and the proposal attempts to find the right balance.

“Perhaps one of the more interesting things in the proposal is that the White House wants for local government and industry to voluntarily ask for help when they have security issues,” writes Eyder Peralta at NPR. “They also want local governments and industry to share 'new types of computer viruses or other cyber threats or incidents' with the federal government. The proposal makes it clear that doing so is legal and provides them immunity if they do so.”

Peralta also noted the bill's application of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to cyber crime, which has previously not been considered subject to RICO even though organized crime rings have been engaged in cyber crime for some time.

Lolita Baldor of the Associated Press reports on tension between business groups, who generally want cybersecurity laws to be light on mandates, and security advocates, who say the White House proposal is toothless.

“The administration's proposal shows no sense of urgency,” said Stewart Baker, a former senior DHS official, as quoted by AP. "It tells even critical industries on which our lives and society depend that they will have years before anyone from government begins to evaluate their security measures."

A senior DHS official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Washington Post that the goal was to encourage good practices from industry. “We worked long and hard to come up with a framework that would enable industry to figure out the best way to protect itself,” the official said.

Kristin Lord, vice president and director of studies at the Center for a New American Security, told the Post that the administration is trying to persuade “critical infrastructure providers to do the right thing by holding out the implied threat of regulation.”

Administration officials said the proposed regulatory framework acknowledges that government does not have all of the answers and elevates public/private cooperation above regulation, Jackson reports. The proposal will likely be reconciled with similar cybersecurity legislation that has been introduced in the House and Senate.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.

Featured

  • 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