DHS secretary: Focus on the systemic cyber risks

Shutterstock image (by Maksim Kabakou): pixelated shield, protection concept.  

The Department of Homeland Security is working to keep foreign terrorists out of the U.S. through new, beefed-up vetting procedures at borders and overseas, but keeping out cyber attackers is a very different challenge, according to the agency's top official.

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a Jan. 29 speech that cybersecurity is a significant and shared concern among government and industry stakeholders. "Your risk is now my risk and my risk is yours," she said of cyber risks.

And while DHS stops some 2,000 known or suspected terrorists from physically entering the country a year, Nielsen said, cyber attackers "already here."

The ability to address evolving electronic tactics, from online recruitment of terrorists to cyber attacks and intrusions, must be met with a partnership that can address weak points in U.S. and commercial industry cyber defenses, Nielsen said in her remarks at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.

Nielsen said the National Institute of Standards and Technology's cybersecurity framework should be used as a starting point and promised that the president's cybersecurity strategy would be updated in the "coming months."

Nielsen had much the same message for world leaders at the World Economic Conference in Davos, Switzerland, last week. At that conference, she said an organization's risks don't end at the network's edge. She said DHS has prioritized information sharing with the private sector and is looking to a "collective defense" to reduce known threats and vulnerabilities, freeing up organizations to focus on more sophisticated threats.

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, 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 or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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