On October 2, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen kicked off National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM), with a conversation at the Washington Post’s Cybersecurity Summit. Secretary Nielsen discussed DHS’s continued efforts to secure our nation’s election systems and combat the threats to our cyberspace.
- The Need for CISA: “The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Act has bipartisan support. It is meant to recognize the importance of the mission that we have at DHS. We are responsible for federal efforts when it comes to both protecting critical infrastructure, working with the owner-operators in private sector, and protecting all those civilian dot govs. To do that, we have to have both a name that indicates that is what we do, and we have to be able to streamline the organization so that we can become more operational.”
- Information Sharing: “First of all, the information sharing is much stronger than it ever has been before. We’re working very closely with the intel community. The moment that we see something significant, we are, in conjunction with them, sharing with our state and local partners."
- Preparing for Election Day: “For Election Day, we’re setting up a situational awareness room—a virtual place where everybody can share information quickly. We are actually pre-deploying Hunt and Incident Response Teams (HIRT)…we’ll be there to support our partners if they need it.”
- Influence vs. Interference: “There are two categories that we’re worried about. One is the direct attacks on election infrastructure. That is where DHS has the lead. The other is this more nefarious, but also nebulous area of foreign influence. That can be done through state spokesmen in a foreign country and through state-run media. In Russia, that could include RT and Sputnik.”
- Our Adversaries: “Russia is more—at the moment—focused on sowing discord on all sides, and through that chaos, hoping to promote their own policies. So it’s slightly different. China’s playing a longer and more holistic game. Russia is being pretty noisy about it right now in terms of not just their use of state-run media, but also what we attribute to be social media personas.”
- 2018 Elections: “We currently have no indication that a foreign adversary intends to disrupt our election infrastructure. But I will immediately follow that with, this is a point in time. We know they have the capability and we know they have the will. So we’re constantly on alert. What we see with China right now are influence campaigns, the more traditional, long-standing, holistic influence campaigns.”
- 2017 Intel Community Assessment: “The President has been clear, I’ve been clear, and the intel community has been clear. We all support the intel community assessment from 2017. I would also say to those in the audience, it’s worth rereading. There’s a lot in there that is still very relevant today, including an entire annex on Russian propaganda and how they actually use state-sponsored media and others to try to influence and sow discord in our society.”
This October marks the 15th year of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month an annual initiative to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity. NCSAM is a collaborative public-private effort to ensure that all Americans have the resources they need to stay safer and more secure online. DHS’s cybersecurity efforts are not just a one-month effort. However, throughout the entire month, DHS will be highlighting our department-wide efforts to enhance the security and resilience of the nation’s cyber ecosystem.
Learn more about NCSAM here.