Ex-cyber chief expects information security transformation

The way information is protected will be totally transformed in the next few years, according to the government's former top cyber-security practitioner.

"I think in the next two to four years, there is going to be a radical transformation of the information security field," Amit Yoran, the former director of the Homeland Security Department's cyber-security division, said Thursday at an E-Gov Institute conference.

Through the increased globalization of networks and new technologies and methods for transmitting content, he said, "within the next three years, you will not be able to define where your enterprise network begins and ends."

The current focus on "firewalls" to block unauthorized people from accessing networks and on identifying patterns of undesired activity will be required but will be an increasingly smaller part of the solution, Yoran said. "We need to ... revolutionize our thinking," he added, noting that government tends to lag three to five years behind the private sector.

Yoran said government needs to foster the development of computer platforms with a reduced amount of unpredictability because unpredictability translates into vulnerabilities. The cycle of trying to stay ahead of hackers by identifying vulnerabilities and applying patches will take "years if not decades" to change, he said.

Yoran said he does not believe there should be concern over the trustworthiness of software based upon where it was produced because many developers within the United States are foreign.

He also called for change in the "completely ineffective" certification process for government agencies' procurement of software by minimizing paperwork and increasing software testing. Other problems include the fact that different labs get different results and that only larger organizations are being forced to endure the process.

There is a limited amount of information about cyber vulnerabilities and threats that the government has and can share with the private sector, Yoran said, adding that private-sector information shared with government should be better protected.

He had no recommendation for small technology companies seeking contracts with Homeland Security, though he said he no longer recommends that they partner with larger systems integrators.

He did recommend increased federal spending on cyber security in the future.

Yoran ended his year in government service in October. He said his accomplishments include forming a coordination group to respond to cyber incidents. That change coordinated "pockets of cyber expertise" from the CIA, Defense Department, FBI, National Security Agency, Secret Service, and the departments of Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, State and Treasury, he said.

The group developed a common understanding on national capabilities at the top-secret level and on who has authority in a national-level cyber incident. Officials still need to define what authority government has in such events and how to use it, Yoran said.

Yoran, who reports say left his government post out of frustration with the attention cyber security received at the department, also warned against combining cyber and physical security, as the latter is "very slow to change" to better turn intelligence into information for the "war-fighters" of cyber security.

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