Report on DHS cybersecurity initiatives expected next month

Officials hope the document will encourage agencies to support the department's cyber response plan.

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- The Homeland Security Department is crafting a cyber-security response plan and next month will provide an update to the National Cyber Response Coordination Group about how it is leveraging capabilities, a department official said Wednesday.

Building the response plan and securing critical infrastructure are two of the cyber-security division's main goals, acting Director Andy Purdy said at a meeting of the National Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board held here.

Purdy said his unit is currently mapping agency capabilities from a cyber-defense perspective, identifying which of those capabilities must be tied into the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) on a continual basis, and identifying US-CERT's capabilities.

Homeland Security will give a preliminary briefing of its findings later this month to the coordination group and will provide an extended briefing in July, he said. The hope is that the document will convince agencies to support the response plan.

The department also is coordinating international efforts of cyber security, Purdy said, but officials first must understand the capabilities of the domestic system. "To prepare for [future] attacks, we need more coordination."

As a result, Homeland Security is working with a number of Internet service providers (ISPs) to craft attack scenarios and learn how to work together, he said. "ISPs do this every day."

Purdy said his division is placing more emphasis on risk management and mitigation. Public-private partnerships have helped "create more clarity [about] what's needed to mitigate resources and where those resources must go," he said.

Those partnerships are focusing on Internet disruption, control systems and software assurance.

"It's not just up to the users to secure cyber security," Purdy said. "We're calling on [software and hardware] makers to reduce the risk."

Board member Steven Lipner, director of security engineering strategy at Microsoft, asked whether that call would require companies to go beyond the "common criteria" standard, which issues requirements for how products are evaluated.

"We'd like to avoid creating anything new if we can avoid it," Purdy responded. "Companies should leverage the common criteria and raise the bar."

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is scheduled to address the business community on cyber-security issues later this week, underscoring the emphasis the agency is placing on the issue, Purdy said. "We're making sure the senior leadership is involved to drive the message. There's a more apparent commitment to cyber security."

Purdy's division also is trying to get clearance for an e-newsletter that would provide users with an update on agency policy every three months, he said.