Guest post from David Canty, program manager in the Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Office of University Programs
Every day, Department of Homeland Security staff, along with our government and private-sector partners, are tasked with safeguarding our communities from myriad threats, both in the real world and online. This places great demands on our ability to evaluate, adapt to, and respond to emerging events and intelligence effectively and continuously.
Those who protect and serve face disruptions big and small on a daily basis. Some disruptions, like natural disasters, rally the proverbial troops to ensure our physical infrastructure is secure. Others, like COVID-19, bring out the best in our frontline workers as they work night and day to keep our citizens and communities healthy. When it comes to fighting cyber threats, the global scale serves as a constant reminder of the urgency of our collective mission. So, we ask ourselves: when it comes to these disruptions, do we have the resources needed to ensure that those fighting are equipped with the right tools, skills, and training to keep the country safe?
Remaining vigilant and prepared to protect our nation’s cybersecurity is one of S&T’s highest priorities. To meet this goal, we are harnessing the intellectual power of America’s universities and leveraging some of the best and brightest subject matter experts and academic minds via our prestigious Centers of Excellence (COE). With their support, S&T is working tirelessly to identify and develop cybersecurity tools and initiatives that will ensure that our staff and other government and private sector partners remain prepared to protect our citizens from malicious cyber activity.
Here is a brief overview of a couple of the efforts underway at our Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI) COE, an academic consortium led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:
Understanding and Improving the Cybersecurity Posture of Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs)
PSAPs are call centers that handle non-emergency and emergency calls, and manage and route police, fire, medical, and other first responders as appropriate. In collaboration with the PSAP community, CIRI is using the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cyber Security Framework (CSF) and relevant NIST security controls to conduct a series of cyber vulnerability and gaps assessments. Based on those analyses, CIRI will propose a NIST CSF Profile standard for PSAPs and recommend cybersecurity best practices based on NIST controls specific to emergency services. The PSAP Profile and best practices will be published for use by the PSAP community. The goal of this effort is to compare NIST’s cybersecurity best practices to current cybersecurity protocols and capabilities of PSAPs throughout the nation; use findings to validate, finalize, and eventually transition a profile tailored to the size and complexity of the PSAP that will help them eliminate any potential cybersecurity weaknesses and vulnerabilities they have; and ultimately improve their resilience against any potential cyberattacks.
Improving Workforce Development and Management Capabilities with the CyberTalent Bridge
The CyberTalent Bridge is a workforce development and management tool designed to help organizations and their employees gain a better understanding of their cybersecurity preparedness and capabilities, and identify any potential skill-related gaps or organizational vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. It enables staff to share their cybersecurity-related qualifications, skillsets, competencies, and professional certifications with other members of their team, who can then use this information to direct them to relevant trainings, classes, and courses that will help them prepare for certain roles; or ensure that they are placed in roles or assigned tasks that are compatible with their strengths. It also helps the organization to identify team capabilities that need to be improved via targeted hiring strategies. CIRI’s ultimate goal with the CyberTalent Bridge is to implement and transition an online platform that will offer comprehensive cybersecurity management capabilities to organizations in homeland security, cybersecurity, and other related fields.
Visit the CIRI website to learn more about these and other ongoing efforts, and remember to check S&T’s social media accounts (@DHSSciTech) throughout October for more information on our ongoing cyber R&D.