The Obama administration has given a green light to the Homeland Security Department to be more competitive and choosey as it hires up to 1,000 new cyber experts over the next three years, the first major personnel move to fulfill its vow to bolster security of the nation's computer networks.
The announcement follows a wave of cyber attacks on federal agencies, including a July assault that knocked government Web sites off the Internet and earlier intrusions into the country's electrical grid.Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who made the announcement on Thursday, said the hiring plan reflects the Obama administration's commitment to improving cyber security. The move gives DHS officials far greater flexibility to hire whom they want, outside of more stringent federal guidelines. And it will also allow more latitude in pay.
As a result, Napolitano told an audience of cyber industry professionals, the new rules "will allow us to be competitive with you all" in luring quality applicants.
From USA Today, on the H1N1 vaccine:
Vaccine for the H1N1 flu will begin arriving in the nation's hospitals, clinics and schools as early as Tuesday, the start of an effort to protect Americans against a swine flu virus that emerged this past spring and quickly circled the globe.
Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says the effort ushers in a "challenging few weeks" for health officials.
That's an understatement.
In a task worthy of a deadly serious video game, state health departments have to organize thousands of workers at 90,000 sites nationwide to administer as many as 250 million doses in three to four months, making sure the people at greatest risk from swine flu - such as pregnant women, young children and health care workers - are first in line.
On top of the logistics, health officials have to convince a somewhat skeptical public that swine flu vaccinations are necessary.
And they've got it do it in the midst of vaccinating the public for seasonal flu, which by itself claims 36,000 lives across the USA each year.
"We're looking at vaccinating as many people as we can in as short a period as we can," Frieden says. "There are enormous logistical challenges."
From AFP, on US aid teams to American Samoa:
US disaster assistance teams helping in the recovery effort on tsunami-devastated American Samoa were providing critically needed aid including emergency power and medical supplies, a top aid official said Thursday.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) chief Craig Fugate said two disaster recovery teams arrived Wednesday and that initial assistance carried on through the night into Thursday on the small South Pacific island.
"We have over 140 people on the ground... coordinating and supporting the government's emergency response," including members of the US Coast Guard, the Hawaii National Guard and FEMA, Fugate told reporters on a conference call.
He said the US agencies had begun distributing food and water, power generators, medical supplies and other emergency aid.
10:15 AM EDT
NPPD Deputy Under Secretary Philip Reitinger will deliver remarks about cyber security threats at the launch of the "Weapons of Mass Disruption Gallery Exhibit"
International Spy MuseumUltra Room – 2nd Floor of Museum Complex
800 F Street NW
Today, per a Presidential Proclamation and a Senate Resolution, marks the start of the sixth annual National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. As stated in the President’s Cyberspace Policy Review, cybersecurity is a national priority and is vital to our economy and the security of our nation. The financial industry, our government networks, and your home computers are under continual attack from a variety of malicious actors, including domestic hackers, international organized crime rings, and foreign intelligence agencies. They are stealing your identities and financial information, sensitive government data, and proprietary industry information. As President Obama stated in his May 29th speech, "America's economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on cybersecurity."
However, there is much that we can do to reduce our vulnerability and improve our resilience to cyber attacks, and we call on all Americans this month to recognize their role in improving the nation’s cybersecurity. One of the themes for this year’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility. This refers to the fact that government, industry, and the individual computer user must all play a role in securing our information networks and data. Public-private partnerships are critical to these efforts, and one example of this partnership is the National Cybersecurity Alliance. This joint industry and government organization provides a variety of information on National Cybersecurity Awareness Month activities. Further, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) provides information on cybersecurity efforts happening within your state.
During the month of October, I will be posting additional information on this blog regarding a variety of cybersecurity topics, including Cyber Threat, Cybersecurity Tips for the Home User, and Cybersecurity Careers.
Please check back here weekly for additional cybersecurity information.
John Brennan is the Deputy National Security Advisor and Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
Everyone thinks about cybersecurity now and then. Whether you’re setting up your business’ website, or opening a new checking account, or sitting down with your child to get on the internet; it’s an issue that affects all of us. Cybercrimes and the security of our private and government cyber infrastructure are critical parts of the department’s mission to secure our homeland – by making sure that we are all safer online.
October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and the Secretary was joined this morning by Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III, White House National Security Staff Acting Senior Director for Cybersecurity Chris Painter, Deputy Under Secretary for NPPD and Director of the National Cybersecurity Center Phil Reitinger, and Director of the Secret Service Mark Sullivan at an event here in Washington, D.C. to kick it off. During the event, Secretary Napolitano took the opportunity to announce the department’s new authority to recruit and hire up to 1,000 cybersecurity professionals across DHS to fill critical roles – including cyber risk and strategic analysis; cyber incident response; vulnerability detection and assessment; intelligence and investigation; and network and systems engineering.
“Effective cybersecurity requires all partners—individuals, communities, government entities and the private sector—to work together to protect our networks and strengthen our cyber resiliency,” said Secretary Napolitano. “This new hiring authority will enable DHS to recruit the best cyber analysts, developers and engineers in the world to serve their country by leading the nation’s defenses against cyber threats.”
- Make sure that you have anti-virus software and firewalls installed, properly configured, and up-to-date. New threats are discovered every day, and keeping your software updated is one of the easier ways to protect yourself from an attack. Set your computer to automatically update for you.
- Update your operating system and critical program software. Software updates offer the latest protection against malicious activities. Turn on automatic updating if that feature is available.
- Back up key files. If you have important files stored on your computer, copy them onto a removable disc and store it in a safe place.
Endorse - Demonstrate your commitment to cybersecurity.
- Create a section for cybersecurity on your organization's Web site.
- Add a signature block to your e-mail:"October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Stay Safe Online!
- Find more resources at US CERT.
Educate - Find out what more you can do to secure cyberspace and how you can share this with others.
- Participate in the National Cyber Security Alliance Cyber Security Awareness Volunteer Education (C-SAVE) Program and help educate elementary, middle, and high-school students about Internet safety and security.
- Review cybersecurity tips with your family.
- Use regular communications in your business—newsletters, e-mail alerts, Web sites, etc.—to increase awareness on issues like updating software processes, protecting personal identifiable information, and securing your wireless network.
Check out the new Cybersecurity Awareness Month page on dhs.gov to learn more, and stay tuned throughout the month.
The Secretary testified today before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs about evaluating threats of terrorism in the United States after 9/11.
Here is a brief excerpt of the Secretary’s remarks; you can find the full text at ___:
DHS is pursuing a collaborative, layered, strategic approach, working with the public and all levels of government to build the Nation’s overall capacity to prevent or respond to any threat that may arise. All of DHS’ law enforcement components focus on counterterrorism as part of their mission. These DHS components collaborate extensively with each other and with federal partners—such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC)—on important counterterrorism operations.
As a critical part of our efforts, DHS is reinvigorating its coordination and collaboration with our state, local, and tribal partners—the Nation’s first preventers and first responders. The work of state, local, and tribal law enforcement at the local level puts them in the best position to notice when something is out of place and warrants a closer look—which is often the first step to thwarting a domestic terrorism plot. The Department facilitates information sharing with state, local, and tribal law enforcement to improve their understanding of domestic terrorist threat, in part by filling information gaps between the federal Intelligence Community (IC) and the Nation’s thousands of law enforcement agencies. DHS is also strengthening the Department’s intelligence enterprise by supporting the state and major urban area fusion centers where state, local, tribal, and federal law enforcement and other emergency response providers share information and intelligence.
The Department also works with a wide variety of communities, individuals and civic organizations to promote preparedness, community engagement and partnerships that constitute a strong defense against violent extremism. In all our work, we ensure that DHS and our partners act with the highest regard for the Constitution and the laws of the land. As President Obama has said, our security and our liberty are not mutually exclusive values—DHS aggressively protects both.
The full transcript is also available.
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Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano urged government, communities and citizens to become more ready and resilient to face disasters ranging from terrorism to natural disasters to diseases in a major policy speech at the American Red Cross in Washington, DC, Tuesday.
Napolitano emphasized measures undertaken by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as well as Citizen Corps in boosting readiness and resilience over the first nine months of the Obama administration. Among those accomplishments has been the introduction of no-notice training drills, Napolitano announced. To date, FEMA has held one such drill, where senior leaders must respond to an unfolding disaster scenario presented to them much like a student would face a pop quiz in class.
"Under the leadership of FEMA Administrator Fugate, we are holding no-notice disaster exercises to ensure that our senior leadership is ready to respond swiftly and effectively to a range of disasters at a moment's notice," Napolitano stated. "That's very different from the past, where all exercises were scripted out well in advance so it felt like we were planning out a Shakespearean drama rather than an actual disaster."
From WIBW-TV Topeka, KS, on Cybersecurity Awareness Month:
Events are planned in Washington, D.C. Thursday to launch October as Cybersecurity Awareness Month.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will join Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III and White House National Security Staff Acting Senior Director for Cybersecurity Chris Painter to kick off the awareness campaign.
Homeland Security says the month is designed to educate all citizens and key public and private sector partners on how to guard against cyber threats at home, work and school.
National Protection and Programs Directorate Under Secretary Rand Beers and National Cyber Security Alliance Director Michael Kaiser will also deliver remarks at the event in Washington, D.C.
10 AM EDT
Secretary Napolitano will testify about evaluating threats of terrorism in the United States after 9/11 before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
342 Dirksen Senate Office Building
10 AM EDT
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Transportation Sector Network Management Assistant Administrator John Sammon will testify about the future of the Registered Traveler program before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection
311 Cannon House Office Building
10 AM EDT
U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara will testify about the Coast Guard’s search and rescue mission before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
10:30 AM EDT
NPPD Assistant Secretary for Cyber Security & Communications Greg Schaffer will participate in a panel discussion about the effect of broadband on cybersecurity at the Broadband Cyber Security Workshop
Federal Communications Commission Headquarters
Commission Meeting Room
445 12th St. SW
2 PM EDT
FEMA Assistant Administrator of the National Continuity Programs Directorate Damon Penn will testify about the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management
2167 Rayburn House Office BuildingWashington, D.C.
1:30 PM MDT
ICE Office of Investigations Director Kumar Kibble will participate in a media availability with Deputy Attorney General David Ogden to announce the launch of the Arizona Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force strike force
3010 North 2nd St
In July, I outlined our approach to our first priority – countering the threat of a terrorist attack. In August, I spoke about the new approach we’re taking to border security.
Today, in remarks at the American Red Cross, I’m speaking about another important mission: readiness and resilience.
Our nation may be better prepared than we were before 9/11. But there is much more we can – and should – do. And to get there, we must treat our nation’s preparedness as a shared responsibility, one where everyone has a role to play.
Civilians are usually the first to arrive in a crisis, and history shows that they are critical in those important first minutes. And these citizen responders can be an even more potent force by:
- Taking CPR training from the Red Cross
- Training with a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)
- Knowing when to take shelter or evacuate
- Pre-planning evacuation routes and where to meet after a disaster strikes
So today, I’m calling on all Americans, across the country, to do two things.
First, take these basic steps:
- get an emergency kit;
- make a family reunification plan; and
- become informed about the types of emergencies your community is most likely to encounter.
Together, we can build a culture of readiness and resilience, and together we can build a more secure future.
We’ve harped on it for 29 days - September is National Preparedness Month. We’ve directed you to ready.gov, provided tips on how to be prepared and stay informed, and asked you more than once to cough into your sleeve.
No one likes to spend that much time thinking about what could happen – be it a natural disaster or otherwise – but the steps you take to prepare for the unthinkable can make the difference for your place of business, your school, and especially your home. And, it’s the American way: being ready and resilient has helped our nation surmount its biggest challenges for two centuries.
So as National Preparedness Month comes to a close, the Secretary has one more request of you: ask a question. Stand up at school, or at work, or at home, and ask, “What’s our plan?”
The Secretary will deliver a speech at The American Red Cross National Headquarters this afternoon at 2:15 PM EDT on preparedness, and wants to make one final pitch to the American public during the month of September. Bring it up the next time you attend a meeting at your child’s high school, or at church, or around the dinner table. This is a shared responsibility, and we all have a role to play in building a culture where these questions, and this dialogue, are commonplace.
Watch the speech LIVE at http://www.dhs.gov/ starting at 2:15 PM EDT.
Then visit ready.gov to learn more.
The pictures tell the story: Thousands upon thousands of U.S. $20 and $50 bills, crisply stacked and banded into neat packets and carefully tucked away into shipping containers filled with bags of ammonium and sodium sulfate bound for Colombia.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), working with our law enforcement partners in Colombia, made the initial seizure on September 10 of $11.2 million from a shipment at the port of Buenaventura, Colombia. Subsequent investigation by ICE, Colombian authorities and Mexican authorities revealed additional shipments in Buenaventura and Manzanillo, Mexico, with large amounts of cash hidden inside.
The total is jaw-dropping -- at least $40.5 million and counting, as of this writing -- and it constitutes the largest container bulk cash smuggling seizure in ICE, U.S. and Colombian history. It's an investigative success we might not have achieved without closely collaborating with our counterparts in Mexico and Colombia, and it is a testament to what can be accomplished through this collaboration.
At this point, the investigation has not yet identified the organizations or individuals behind these shipments. However, it is well-established that the two ports in question are key points of a route used for smuggling cocaine northward to Mexico and the United States, and for sending cash back into Colombia. The scheme is believed to have been perpetrated by or on behalf of a major trafficking organization, or organizations, operating in Colombia.
Perhaps most important is what these seized dollars represent. Every illicit dollar we can stop from flowing across the border is one less dollar going to fuel the cartels' operations. It's one less dollar they can use to buy guns, or to pay a corrupt official to look the other way. By targeting the flow of money, we hit the traffickers where it hurts most.
John Morton is the Assistant Secretary for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Nine members and associates of a Bell Gardens street gang, including a suspected hit man for a Mexican drug cartel, have been arrested on drug trafficking and weapons charges, federal officials said Friday.
The suspects -- six U.S. citizens and three illegal Mexican immigrants -- were arrested Thursday as agents served search warrants in Bell Gardens and Los Angeles, officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said. Their arrests culminated a nine-month investigation by the agency of the Barrio Evil 13 street gang.
Several assault weapons, including an AK-47 assault rifle, a Tec-9 submachine gun, a MAC-11 submachine gun and a sawed-off shotgun, along with thousands of rounds of ammunition also were recovered.
"This is a relatively small and newer gang that has been operating with impunity for the last several years," said Kevin Kozak, deputy special agent in charge of ICE's Los Angeles office of investigations. "They have access to significant weapons . . . and claims they can have access to military-grade weapons through a 'friend' in the military."
From IDG News, on the department's privacy report:
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's annual privacy report card revealed more details on the agency's controversial policy involving searches of electronic devices at U.S. borders.
The 99-page report, which was released Thursday, also offered details on the agency's efforts to address privacy risks in social media and the use of imaging technologies that produce whole-body scans at airport security checkpoints.
The report is the first DHS privacy assessment released to Congress since the new administration took office. It covers the activities of the DHS Privacy Office between July 2008 and June 2009.
For the most part, the report is a compilation of privacy-related activities across the DHS during this period. However, it also offered lesser-known details about some DHS programs. For instance, numbers released in the report indicate that warrantless searches of electronic devices at U.S. borders are occurring less frequently than some privacy and civil rights advocates might have feared.
11:30 AM EDT
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Secretary John Morton will participate in a media availability with representatives from the Colombian and Mexican governments to announce the seizure of more than $41 million in U.S. currency discovered during a joint investigation.
ICE Headquarters Potomac Center North500 12th Street SW
12 PM EDT
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate will deliver remarks about preparedness at the Temple University Annual Preparedness Fair
Temple University1101 West Montgomery AvenuePhiladelphia, Penn.
12 PM EDT
U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen will deliver remarks about current Coast Guard activities at the National Cargo Bureau luncheon
1530 Wisconsin Ave NW