DHS pushing for more public-private partnership on cyber

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The Department of Homeland Security is looking to further expand its cooperation with Israel on cyberspace over the coming year, DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Dec. 4.

Mayorkas, who said he spends a fair amount of time in his position dealing with cyber issues, travelled  to Israel this summer to discuss cybersecurity and other areas of collaboration. The last significant and formal cyber agreement with Israeli partners came in 2008 and Mayorkas is looking to build on that, with an increase in the public and private partnership realm.

"We in the department are so increasingly focused on the cybersecurity threat and efforts to address that threat in a public private partnership and with our partners across the world," he said. "Because of course the interconnectedness of the world speaks to the possibilities, but also speaks very powerfully of the threat"

Mayorkas  said he was "astounded" to learn of Israel's cyber innovations, and both parties agreed to cooperate on cyber incident management. He noted, "we have a lot to learn from one another."  The deputy secretary plans to visit Israel again in late January of next year to talk about cyber issues. He said it is "vitally important in the cyber space area for the public and private sectors to work together."

The bulk of the speech Mayorkas gave at a forum in Washington revolved around U.S.-Israel cooperation on matters of cyber, but he also noted that when cyber breaches occur, they affect the partners of the United States as well. And while he did not directly blame China for anything specific, Mayorkas made it a point to talk about the recent U.S.-China cyber dialogue, which concluded Dec. 3.

The first high-level dialogue on cybercrime and related issues was held in Washington on Dec. 1 after President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping met at the White House in September of this year. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, together with Chinese State Councilor Guo Shengkun, co-chaired the dialogue.

The U.S. and China established guidelines for combatting cybercrime and related issues, agreed to a joint threat response exercise to take place in 2016, agreed to establish a hotline mechanism to better address cyber threats and promised to focus on enhancing cooperation in cyber-enabled crime.

A day after the dialogue started, reports surfaced that Chinese officials said they had arrested the hackers responsible for the theft of personal information through the Office of Personnel Management breach. U.S. officials had long suspected Chinese hackers to be behind the massive breach, which compromised sensitive information on more than 22 million current and former federal workers, contractors and federal job applicants.

"We are taking the approach that actions speak louder than words," Mayorkas   told reporters on Friday. So we will be watching the actions to make sure that they [Chinese officials] adhere to the norms and the principles that we have been articulating."

He said the focus of the conversation was not on enforcement and the enforcement response, but "rather working together on a different channel to patch and remediate the vulnerabilities."

About the Author

Aisha Chowdhry is a former staff writer for FCW.


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