Homeland Security Secretary outlines cybersecurity plans

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Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson gave details Thursday of his department’s participation in the Cybersecurity National Action Plan unveiled by President Barack Obama this week.

“DHS has a role in almost every aspect of this plan,” Johnson said during an hour-long “state of the nation’s homeland security” annual address at the Woodrow Wilson International Center. 

“While counterterrorism remains a cornerstone of our department’s mission, I have concluded that cybersecurity must be another,” he added, noting that he and the president shared the goal of “making tangible improvements to our nation’s cybersecurity” before they left office in just under a year.

[Read more: Obama unveils cybersecurity national action plan and budget]

The president’s plan, which would invest more than $19 billion in cybersecurity improvements, will also create a commission focused on these efforts — to report in December.

DHS will expand the number of its federal cyber response teams from 10 to 48, Johnson said. “These teams will respond to incidents, conduct ‘red team’ penetration testing, proactively hunt for intruders on federal networks, and help agencies design more secure systems,” according to the department’s website.

The number of departmental cybersecurity advisers — who make “house calls” and provide “in-person, customized cybersecurity assessments” to private sector organizations under online attack — will double, he said.  

DHS will also continue to support the “Stop. Think. Connect” public awareness campaign to promote cybersecurity and multi-factor identification in particular.

Johnson said the department was keen to get ahead of the security problems likely to accompany the burgeoning growth of the universe of connected devices called the Internet of Things

“We will collaborate with Underwriters Laboratories and others to develop a cybersecurity assurance program to test and certify network devices, such your mobile-on systems, your refrigerator or even a pacemaker,” Johnson said.

[Read more: Johnson rebuts audit criticism on $6B Einstein defense]

Johnson also addressed the intrusion detection system Einstein 3A, which has already blocked 700,000 cyber threats, and is being rapidly expanded, he said.

Johnson also thanked Congress for passing the Cybersecurity Act of 2015 in October, which authorized departmental programs and gave DHS a lead role in the protection of federal networks.

“This was a huge assist in DHS and our cybersecurity mission and in we are in the process of implementing this new law now,” he said.

Contact the reporter on this story via email: Jeremy.Snow@FedScoop.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeremyM_Snow. Sign up for the Daily Scoop — all the federal IT news you need in your inbox every morning — here: fdscp.com/sign-me-on. 

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Cybersecurity, Defense & Intelligence, Government IT News, Homeland Security, Tech
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