Defense

Pentagon releases cyber implementation plan

Image of the Pentagon

The Defense Department CIO has released an "implementation plan" to help codify its increased attention to fundamental cybersecurity practices in recent months.

The DOD Cybersecurity Discipline Implementation Plan prioritizes identity authentication, reducing DOD networks' attack surface, device hardening and the alignment of computer network defenders with DOD IT systems and networks.

Inspection reports from recent network intrusions have "revealed department-wide, systemic shortfalls in implementing basic cybersecurity requirements," the plan states.

The document, which was amended in February and publicly released within the last week, goes hand-in-hand with a DOD cyber scorecard that grades various agencies' IT security and is reviewed monthly by Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

Whereas the scorecard is a more strategic, bird's eye view for Carter, the new implementation plan targets compliance further down the chain of command. Commanders and supervisors at all levels will report their implementation progress through the Defense Readiness Reporting System.

The initiative "forces awareness and accountability for these key tasks into the command chains and up to senior leadership, where resourcing decisions can be made to address compliance shortfalls," the plan states.

The implementation plan lays out a series of tasks for DOD officials, organized against the four aforementioned priorities. For example, officials are charged with making sure their internal web servers require official Public Key Infrastructure authentication; with ensuring proper configuration of physical and virtual servers; with disconnecting all Internet-facing web servers and web applications without "an operational requirement"; and with ensuring proper incident response plans are in place.

If officials determine it is not possible to comply with the document's requirements for operational reasons, they may be given an exception via a DOD risk management committee.

Officials like Deputy Secretary Robert Work have said that a great majority of intrusions into Pentagon networks are the result of human error, and the implementation plan is an effort to tighten the screws on compliance.

DOD CIO Terry Halvorsen has clamped down on poor cybersecurity practices within the department, kicking irresponsible users off of networks, according to his office.

Asked last October at a media roundtable if anyone at DOD had ever been fired for sloppy network use, Halvorsen said, "Absolutely."

The implementation plan follows another policy, the Cybersecurity Culture and Compliance Initiative, signed by Carter last September. That directive tasked Halvorsen's office with conducting realistic training for DOD network users to drive home the consequences of insecure practices.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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