Homeland Security unveils new cybersecurity division, seeks chief

The Homeland Security Department on Friday officially unveiled its cybersecurity division, but the unit still lacks a leader.

The Homeland Security Department on Friday officially unveiled its cybersecurity division to focus on securing the nation's computer networks, but the unit still lacks a chief.

Assistant Homeland Security Secretary for Infrastructure Protection Robert Liscouski called the new division "the feet" to implement the administration's strategy to secure cyberspace and said his goal is to name a director within the next 30 days.

"I want a private-sector person who can be a visionary," Liscouski said at a news briefing. "We will kick off an aggressive search to find a director."

The question of who will oversee cybersecurity within the Bush administration has been an open issue since March 1, when the White House dissolved its Office of Cyberspace Security as part of the process of creating Homeland Security. Several high-ranking cybersecurity officials declined to take jobs in the new department, spurring speculation that the administration was not going to put the new cybersecurity adviser in a senior position.

"I think what you saw was confusion about where the new division was going to be placed in the department," Liscouski said. "If this organization were anywhere else [but here], then it would be dysfunctional. ... This is a peer office ... and the secretary [Tom Ridge] has a laser-beam focus on cyber security." He added that Ridge knows the importance of technology to the business community.

Liscouski outlined the office's goals, which include prevention, protection and mitigation of cyber attacks. He emphasized that cyber security is a key part of physical security, part of the department's overall mission. As part of the effort of prevention and protection, the division will oversee a Cybersecurity Tracking, Analysis and Response Center (CSTARC), which will serve as a central point for detecting, coordinating and responding to cyber attacks.

Liscouski emphasized that the cyber division would not regulate but would "act as a bully pulpit" for creating a culture of cybersecurity.

He noted that department officials are discussing ideas, such as creating cyber-security standards, providing cybersecurity insurance or requiring companies to publicly state their cybersecurity efforts in their financial statements. "But these ideas are in a discussion stage" and nowhere near a policymaking stage, he said.

Liscouski said his division works so closely with Paul Redmond, assistant secretary for information analysis, that the line between the two divisions is "blurry." Redmond is also working with the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC), which is to be the center point for that nation's intelligence gathering.

TTIC, which is being housed within the CIA, is to have a "cyber capability," Liscouski said, and is to help them his department with mapping cyber vulnerabilities. He said the new cyber-security division at Homeland Security would not have investigative abilities, as that remains the FBI's primary responsibility to follow up on cyber crimes.

The Business Software Alliance, Entrust, Information Technology Association of America and the security firm VeriSign all expressed public support for the new division.