Homeland Security

DHS pushes for more cyber experts in the field

Senior DHS cyber official Andy Ozment is calling for more cybersecurity advisers to help critical infrastructure providers.

The Department of Homeland Security wants to expand a program that puts federal cyber and physical security experts on the ground in potentially vulnerable spots, officials told lawmakers.

Local advisers are essential to effective cybersecurity for infrastructure providers, said Andy Ozment, assistant secretary for DHS' Office of Cybersecurity and Communications in the National Protection and Programs Directorate.

He told the House Homeland Security Committee's Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies Subcommittee that DHS has six cybersecurity advisers deployed nationwide as part of an NPPD program and is seeking funding for a total of 24 in the fiscal 2017 budget.

Additionally, Ozment and Caitlin Durkovich, assistant secretary of NPPD's Office of Infrastructure Protection, said cybersecurity advisers must be more closely aligned with advisers who focus on infrastructure providers' physical security.

The push aligns closely with DHS' plan to reorganize NPPD into a new entity called Cyber Infrastructure Protection, which would cut across the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, the Office of Infrastructure Protection and the Federal Protective Service. The plan requires the backing of Congress.

DHS fields 102 regional protective security advisers as part of a program established in 2004. Durkovich told the panel that although that program is mature, the agents don't have detailed expertise in cybersecurity. They know the basics of good cyber hygiene and have completed cybersecurity training camps with the Secret Service, but only a few have been certified to work with cybersecurity tools, she added.

Two dozen cybersecurity advisers wouldn't match the number of protective security advisers, but Ozment said the teams could work cooperatively.

Physical security advisers could initially raise cybersecurity concerns with critical infrastructure providers. "If there is a cyber problem, they can bring it to the attention of a [cyber adviser]" who might not necessarily be a hands-on expert but would take a more strategic approach to cybersecurity advice, Ozment said.

NPPD's incident response teams would handle the technical details on intrusions and more damaging cyberattacks.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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