Homeland Security

GAO: NCCIC needs to clarify operating principles

  

The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center is generally performing its required functions, but it needs to further evaluate and clarify its operating principles and performance metrics, the Government Accountability Office said in a new report.

The Department of Homeland Security's NCCIC was created in 2009 and updated by the National Cybersecurity Protection Act of 2014 and the Cybersecurity Act of 2015.

Those acts collectively task the NCCIC with 11 cybersecurity functions, such as serving as a federal-civilian interface for sharing cyber threat indicators, coordinating information sharing across the federal government and providing information and recommendations on security and resilience measures to federal and nonfederal entities.

Further, the NCCIC is required to carry out its functions in accordance with nine governing principles that include ensuring the information shared is "timely, actionable, and relevant" and that "activities are prioritized and conducted based on the level of risk."

According to the GAO investigation carried out from January 2016 through February 2017, the NCCIC has developed 43 products and services in support of its 11 functions.

"However, the extent to which NCCIC adhered to the 9 principles when performing the functions is unclear because the center has not yet determined the applicability of the principles to all 11 functions, or established metrics and methods by which to evaluate its performance against the principles," the report stated.

GAO also focused on issues that "impede NCCIC's ability to more efficiently perform several of its cybersecurity functions," according to the report. These include an inability to track and consolidate cyber incidents reported to NCCIC.

Additionally, NCCIC's Rolodex is potentially out of date. GAO noted that the center  "may not have ready access to the current contact information for all owners and operators of the most critical cyber-dependent infrastructure assets," which could pose a problem in the event of a crisis.

The GAO also surveyed 2,800 of the more than 19,000 recipients of NCCIC products. Respondents generally said that NCCIC products were timely and actionable and expressed "generally favorable views of the center's provision of cybersecurity information."

Sixty-two percent of respondents "indicated cyber defensive information to be at a high or moderate level of effectiveness."

GAO made nine recommendations to NCCIC to help improve its understanding of its mission and its processes for carrying it out. DHS concurred with all nine.

About the Author

Sean Carberry is a former FCW staff writer who focused on defense, cybersecurity and intelligence.


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