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A Focused Effort on Cybersecurity

Image of computer board.Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak at the World Affairs Council Global Education Dinner about our Department’s increasing focus on the issue of cybersecurity.

Of all the threats America faces, the integrity of our cyber infrastructure demands special attention. These are no longer emerging threats. They are with us now, and are happening every day. Over the past two years, for example, cyber crime has cost Americans more than $8 billion.

Any victim of identity theft understands the damage and permanent harm that this can cause to personal finances, credit, and reputation. Cyber threats also pose clear national security risks to major public and government networks and systems – from banking and energy to communications and transportation.

For this reason, President Obama has made cybersecurity the object of one of his first executive actions, declaring our nation’s cyber infrastructure as a strategic national asset and outlining a comprehensive plan for how our nation will prepare for and respond to cyber threats.

Our Department is playing a key role in this effort. For example, we are taking the lead in defending federal executive branch networks and systems – the “dot-gov” domain – as well as coordination with the private sector to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure and key resources.

What the Department is Doing

This is a top priority for us. Accordingly, I have centralized all of the Department’s cybersecurity functions under a new deputy undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate, Philip Reitinger. This individual will coordinate cyber security across the Department, including our U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) and our National Cyber Security Center.

We’re also in the process of recruiting some of the best and brightest to lend their talents to our Department. We recently asked a well-known former computer hacker to join the Homeland Security Advisory Council to help us better understand the kind of threats that can come from hackers seeking to do harm.

Because cyber threats are not limited by international boundaries, we are also working with our overseas partners. For example, we are part of a coalition called the “International Watch and Warning Network” where 15 countries collaborate on policy issues, and response to cyber attacks.

Of course, the government can’t do this work alone. Everyone has a role to play in making cybersecurity a regular habit. For more information on that front, I encourage you to visit the U.S. CERT website to learn about how you can help.

By taking prudent, common-sense measures, we can reduce our individual and collective vulnerability to cyber threats and increase our resiliency as a nation. Because cybersecurity is not an end point, but rather an ongoing set of efforts, this will continue to be a major priority for our Department in the weeks and months ahead.

Janet Napolitano

Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
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